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Monthly Archives: September 2016

Drug-Resistant Germs in Hospital Rooms

Nearly half of 50 hospital rooms tested by researchers were colonized or infected with a multidrug-resistant bacteria, a new study says.

University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers found Acinetobacter baumannii (MDR-AB) bacteria on multiple surfaces, including bedrails, supply carts and floors. This species of bacteria, which has caused infection outbreaks in healthcare facilities over the last decade, can survive on surfaces for long periods of time. MDR-AB infections mainly occur in patients who are very ill, wounded or have weakened immune systems.

For the study, the researchers analyzed samples collected from 10 surfaces in each of 50 hospital rooms occupied by patients with a recent (less than two months prior to sampling) or remote (more than two months) history of MDR-AB.

The surfaces selected for sampling included bedrails, bedside table, door knob, vital sign monitor touchpad, nurse call button, sink, supply cart drawer handles, infusion pump, ventilator surface touch pad, and the floor on both sides of the bed.

The researchers found that 9.8 percent of the surface samples from 48 percent of the rooms showed evidence of MDR-AB. The surfaces most commonly contaminated were supply cart handles (20 percent), floors (16 percent), infusion pumps (14 percent), ventilator touchpads (11.4 percent), and bedrails (just over 10 percent).

These findings are a cause for concern because these surfaces are routinely touched by health care workers, the researchers said.

The study, published in the November issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, also found that patients with a recent history of MDR-AB were no more likely to contaminate their hospital room than those with a remote history.

“For patients with MDR-AB, the surrounding environment is frequently contaminated, even among patients with a remote history of MDR-AB,” the researchers concluded in a journal news release. “In addition, surfaces often touched by health care workersduring routine patient care are commonly contaminated and may be a source of (hospital-based) transmission. The results of this study are consistent with studies of other important hospital pathogens such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus and Clostridium difficile.”

However, the study does not show which came first — MDR-AB or environmental contamination.

Yawning May Help the Brain Chill Out

Yawning may be a natural way of regulatingbrain temperature, a new study suggests.

U.S. researchers examined the frequency of yawns among 80 people in the winter and another 80 people in the summer and found seasonal variations.

Yawning is known to be “contagious,” the researchers pointed out. After being showed pictures of other people yawning, nearly half of the participants yawned while outdoors in winter, compared with less than one-quarter while outdoors in summer, according to the report published online Sept. 22 in the journal Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience.

The finding that people yawn less often in the summer, when outdoor temperatures often exceed body temperature, suggests that yawning could be a natural brain-cooling mechanism, said the researchers at Princeton University and the University of Arizona.

“This provides additional support for the view that the mechanisms controlling the expression of yawning are involved in thermoregulatory physiology. Despite numerous theories posited in the past few decades, very little experimental research has been done to uncover the biological function of yawning, and there is still no consensus about its purpose among the dozen or so researchers studying the topic today,” study leader Andrew Gallup, a postdoctoral research associate in Princeton’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology, said in a university news release.

“Enter the brain cooling, or thermoregulatory, hypothesis, which proposes that yawning is triggered by increases in brain temperature, and that the physiological consequences of a yawn act to promote brain cooling,” he added.

Yawning may help cool the brain through the deep inhalation of cool air and by enhanced blood flow to the brain caused by the stretching of the jaw.

“According to the brain cooling hypothesis, it is the temperature of the ambient air that gives a yawn its utility. Thus yawning should be counterproductive — and therefore suppressed — in ambient temperatures at or exceeding body temperature because taking a deep inhalation of air would not promote cooling. In other words, there should be a ‘thermal window’ or a relatively narrow range of ambient temperatures in which to expect highest rates of yawning,” Gallup explained.

TV May Take Years Off Your Life if it Too Much

Spending your days in front of the television may contribute to a shortened lifespan, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Australia found that people who averaged six hours a day of TV lived, on average, nearly five years less than people who watched no TV.

For every hour of television watched after age 25, lifespan fell by 22 minutes, according to the research led by Dr. J. Lennert Veerman of the University of Queensland.

But other experts cautioned that the study did not show that TV watching caused people to die sooner, only that there was an association between watching lots of TV and a shorter lifespan.

Though a direct link between watching TV and a shortened lifespan is highly provocative, the harms of TV are almost certainly indirect, said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine.

“As a rule, the more time we spend watching TV, the more time we spend eatingmindlessly in front of the TV, and the less time we spend being physically active,” Katz said. “More eating and less physical activity, in turn, mean greater risk for obesity, and the chronic diseases it tends to anticipate, notably diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

Another explanation for the possible link may be that people who watch excessive amounts of TV “are lonely, or isolated, or depressed, and these conditions, in turn, may be the real causes of premature mortality,” he added.

The report was published in the Aug 15 online edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

In the study, researchers used data on 11,000 people aged 25 and older from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, which included survey information about how much TV people watched in a week. Researchers also used national population and mortality figures.

In 2008, Australian adults watched a total of 9.8 billion hours of TV. People who watched more than six hours of TV were in the top 1 percent for TV viewing.

The statistics suggest that too much TV may be as dangerous as smoking and lack of exercise in reducing life expectancy, the researchers said.

For example, smoking can shorten of life expectancy by more than four years after the age of 50. That represents 11 minutes of life lost for every cigarette and that’s the same as half an hour of TV watching, the researchers said.

Without TV, researchers estimated life expectancy for men would be 1.8 years longer and for women, 1.5 years longer.

“While we used Australian data, the effects in other industrialized and developing countries are likely to be comparable, given the typically large amounts of time spent watching TV and similarities in disease patterns,” the researchers noted.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, associate chief of cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, said that “there is increasing evidence that the amount of time spent in sedentary activity such at TV watching, distinct from the amount of time spent in purposeful exercise, may adversely impact health.”

And although participating in a regular exercise program can help, it may not be enough to offset the risks of spending too much of the rest of the day — while at work or at home — getting no exercise whatsoever.

“Staying active and reducing time spent sedentary may be of benefit in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and may be considered as part of a comprehensive approach to improve cardiovascular health,” Fonarow added.

Dr. Robert J. Myerburg, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, added that “a sedentary lifestyle can reduce life expectancy.”

Myerburg isn’t sure why sitting around is not good for your health. “It’s better to look at it from a positive prospective,” he said. “That is: a physically active lifestyle is protective.”

Cell Phones May Cause Brain Cancer

Cell phones may cause brain cancer, a panel of experts reporting to the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Tuesday.

After reviewing dozens of studies that explored a possible link between cancer and the ubiquitous hand-held phones, the experts classified cell phones as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and placed them in the same category as the pesticide DDT and gasoline engine exhaust.

The panel determined that an increased risk for glioma, a malignant form of brain cancer, appears associated with wireless phone use.

Globally, it’s estimated that 5 billion cell phones are in use. “The number of users is large and growing, particularly among young adults and children,” the International Agency for Research on Cancer said in a news release issued Tuesday.

The IARC made the announcement in Lyons, France, based on the work of 31 scientists from 14 countries. It will present its findings to the WHO, which may then issue its recommendations on safe cell phone use.

Experts said children are especially vulnerable.

“Children’s skulls and scalps are thinner. So the radiation can penetrate deeper into the brain of children and young adults. Their cells are dividing at a faster rate, so the impact of radiation can be much larger,” Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told CNN.

Until Tuesday’s announcement, the WHO had said that cell phones were safe to use.

The international experts behind Tuesday’s announcement met for eight days to review exposure data, studies of cancer in humans and in experimental animals, and other relevant data, looking for associations between cancer and the type of electromagnetic radiation found in cell phones, televisions and microwaves.

Dr. Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, said this new paper is important “first and foremost just because of the large number of users worldwide that have access now to this technology.”

Also, the scientists found notable gaps in the existing research, he said, which “suggest interesting areas of future research that will improve the evidence base which we have in order to make decisions about the usage of mobile phones in the future.”

Responding to Tuesday’s announcement, John Walls, vice president of public affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group representing the wireless industry said: “Today, an International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) working group in Lyon, France categorized radiofrequency fields from cellphones as possibly carcinogenic based on ‘limited evidence.’ IARC conducts numerous reviews and in the past has given the same score to, for example, pickled vegetables and coffee. This IARC classification does not mean cell phones cause cancer. Under IARC rules, limited evidence from statistical studies can be found even though bias and other data flaws may be the basis for the results.

“The IARC working group did not conduct any new research, but rather reviewed published studies,” Walls added in a news release. “Based on previous assessments of the scientific evidence, the Federal Communications Commission has concluded that ‘[t]heres no scientific evidence that proves that wireless phone usage can lead to cancer.’ The Food and Drug Administration has also stated that ‘[t]he weight of scientific evidence has not linked cell phones with any health problems.'”

There has been conflicting research in recent years on the health hazards posed by cell phones. As recently as February, British researchers reported that cell phones do not increase the risk of brain cancer.

Their analysis of data on newly diagnosed cases of brain cancer in England between 1998 and 2007 — when cell phone use was climbing — revealed no statistically significant change in the incidence of brain cancers in men or women, said the University of Manchester researchers.

There was a very small increase (0.6 more cases per 100,000 people) in the incidence of cancers of the brain’s temporal lobe. That works out to 31 extra cases per year in England’s population of nearly 52 million people, the researchers said.

But the study authors also noted that cancers of the brain’s parietal lobe, cerebrum and cerebellum in English men fell slightly during the study period.