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An ultra-Orthodox Jewish circumcision practice in which the circumciser places his mouth on a newborn's newly circumcised penis and sucks blood away from the wound carries a risk of transmitting the herpes virus to the baby, sometimes fatally, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report is based on researchers' investigation into the cases of 11 infants in New York City who were infected with the herpes virus after this procedure, known as metzitzah b’peh ("direct orogenital suction"), between November 2000 and December 2011. Ten of these infants were hospitalized, and two died.
Some of the infants’ parents were not aware this technique would be a part of their child’s circumcision, the researchers found. Parents should be aware of the risk of herpes in metzitzah b’peh, and should inquire in advance whether direct orogenital suction will be performed so the practice can be avoided, the CDC researchers said.
"Oral contact with a newborn’s open wound risks transmission of [ herpes simplex virus ] and other pathogens," the researches wrote in their report. "Circumcision is a surgical procedure that should be performed under sterile conditions."
The virus that was found in most of the infants, called herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) — which is typically associated with cold sores, but does not always cause any symptoms — is highly prevalent in the general adult population, the report said. A 2004 study showed that 73 percent of adults ages 20 and older in New York City carried the virus.
At least three of the infants, including one who died, were circumcised by the same person, the report said. The New York City Commissioner of Health has issued a directive ordering that person to stop performing direct orogenital suction during circumcisions.
At least three mohliem (circumcisers) performed the circumcisions of the 11 infected infants, and there may have been as many as eight mohliem, the CDC said. In some cases, parents refused to identify their child's circumciser to CDC officials.
The rate of newborn boys who undergo direct orogenital suction and contract herpes infections is 24.4 per 100,000, the report said. That's 3.4 times higher than the rate of herpes infections seen in the general newborn male population, which is 8 per 100,000. Other cases of herpes are typically transmitted from mother to infant during delivery.
Neonatal herpes infections is a potentially disabling, life-threatening infection, the report said.
Physicians should counsel parents considering out-of-hospital circumcisions about the risks of direct orogenital suction, and should consider herpes infection when evaluating a newborn male infant with a fever following Jewish ritual circumcision, and inquire about direct orogenital suction, the CDC said.
Mohelim should inform parents about whether they perform direct orogenital suction, and explain the risk of virus transmission, so that parents can choose not to have their newborns exposed, the report said.
We've all had those fuzzy mornings where we've nearly brushed our teeth with Neosporin, but a new study presented at an annual meeting of epidemiologists has found that prison inmates are purposefully misusing over-the-counter topical antibiotics as grooming aids.
The study, which asked 822 inmates at two New York State prisons about their use of OTC antibiotics such as Bacitracin (an ingredient found in Neosporin), found that 29 percent of the men and 28 percent of the women had used the ointment for dry skin, 18 percent of men and 15 percent of women had used it as a lip balm, 8 percent of men and 3 percent of women had used it as hair gel and 6 percent of men had slathered the ointment onto their face as a shaving cream.
"I think one reason they used the antibiotic ointments in these ways is because they didn't know they shouldn't," says Carolyn Herzig, a PhD candidate in the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and lead author of the study. "Or it might be that they didn't have easy access to other products."
Misuse or overuse of antibiotics is worrisome because it can lead to strains of antimicrobial resistant pathogens resulting in the emergence of multi-drug resistant organisms such as MRSA, a strain of staph infection that's now resistant to methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and many other antibiotics.
These pathogens are already a problem in prisons, and the "misuse of antibiotics in these facilities might exacerbate this issue," Herzig explains.
"We don't know specifically whether the overuse of topical antibiotics would lead to MRSA -- we don't have the data to demonstrate that -- but in many cases, in general, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance," says Herzig. "That's exactly what the concern is."
Herzig and her team of researchers tapped prison inmates as they were being admitted to two New York State maximum security prisons -- one men's and one women's. (The researcher declined to reveal the names of the prisons.)
"The question we asked was, 'Have you used antibiotic ointment in the past six months?'" she says. "They were entering the prison facilities from either jails or prisons or possibly, the community. If they served a sentence longer than six months, then they had used the ointments in other prisons or in county lockup. It's also possible that some of them used the ointments while they were not incarcerated but I would say the majority of them used them while incarcerated."
Medical personnel do dispense antibiotic ointments to inmates as needed; however, other items -- such as hair gel and shaving cream -- are harder to come by, Robin Campbell, press secretary for the New York City Department of Corrections (which includes Rikers Island and other Borough facilities), said in a statement.
"Facility medical personnel dispense antibiotic creams and ointments, like foot gels, to inmates on an as needed basis," he said in an email. "Although inmates may purchase some personal hygiene products, like shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant, from the facility commissary, shaving cream, lip balm and hair gel are prohibited due to security concerns."
Antibiotic resistance concerns aside -- would a Neosporin-like cream even work as a beauty aid? "I think they probably worked as well as Vaseline," says Herzig. "And I really think if they'd had lotion or Vaseline, that's what they would have used."
The study's findings were presented this week at the 39th Annual Educational Conference and International Meeting of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology in San Antonio, Texas. Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the study was the first of its kind to report on the widespread misuse of topical antibiotics among inmates.
While Herzig says she's been unable to find any studies on the misuse of over-the-counter antibiotic ointments in everyday life, she is curious about inappropriate use of these products in normal populations.
"I've spent a lot of time looking at the literature to see if there's a comparable study that shows how people use these ointments in a community, but I haven't seen anything that reports that information," she says. "I suspect it is happening, though."
Melissa Rowton, a 41-year-old customer service trainer from Seattle, says she's used antibiotic ointments on blemishes before -- although she doesn't do it very often.
"I've used Neosporin for pimples and have a friend who swears by it," says Rowton. "It makes sense when they are often caused by bacteria. I wash and dry my face thoroughly and dab a small amount on any problem area before bed."
Herzig says none of the prisoners who answered the open-ended questionnaire indicated they'd used the antibiotic ointments in this way. However, in addition to using the topical antibiotics as hair gel, moisturizer and lip balm, many said they'd used the products in ways that were closer to their intended use.
"We got many reasons," she says. "Some used them for skin injuries, skin conditions including eczema and acne, fungal infection, or for new tattoos. We're not suggesting people should use antibiotics for all those reasons. But they're more appropriate than using them for lip balm or moisturizer."
More from Vitals:
Young recovering heroin addicts Tej Yaich, 20, Holly Yates, 20 and Tara McCormac, 22, and Dr. Joseph Gay share their stories and discuss the growing heroin crisis in Ohio.
The crackdown on illegal use of prescription painkillers in some parts of the country has fueled increased use of heroin -- a cheaper and more dangerous alternative -- among teens. Both the painkillers and heroin are opiates, a class of drugs derived from the poppy plant.
If parents suspect their teens are using opiates, quick action is urged. Warning signs include:
“Parents should not hesitate to force their kid to seek help for this,” says Dr. Joe Gay, an Athens, Ohio, psychologist who treats addiction, noting the “ever-present danger” of overdose. “This is such a critical condition, and it’s progressive. It’s important to get help as soon as you can.”
And studies show that the earlier it’s treated, the greater the likelihood of long-term abstinence, says Dr. Lynn Fiellin, a Yale internist who treats and studies addiction.
Sarah Mayer, 27, and her father Randy, 54, of Hilliard Ohio, share her story of addiction and recovery with NBC News.
What to do
Treating teens is particularly challenging, she says, because their parents are usually the ones seeking help, not the teens themselves.
There are two medications used to treat addiction to opiates and opioids, which are synthetic opiates: methadone and buprenorphine, sold under the brand name Suboxone. Methadone is available only at methadone clinics, so patients must go to a clinic every day to drink the drug. But patients can get a prescription for buprenorphine -- launched in 2003 in the United States -- at their local pharmacy and take the pills in the privacy of their own home.
“Methadone is still considered the treatment of choice for maintenance in adolescents,” Fiellin says. “Increasingly, there’s more use of buprenorphine in teenagers, but it’s still limited.”
The safety and effectiveness of Suboxone in children under age 16 has not been established, according to Food and Drug Administration-approved prescribing information. In 2009, fewer than 1 percent of doctors who prescribed buprenorphine were pediatricians, according to government data. However, a growing body of research supports the use of buprenorphine in teens, Fiellin says.
SAMHSA, the federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, has a searchable substance abuse treatment locator at findtreatment.samhsa.gov. SAMHSA also maintains a searchable locator of physicians and treatment programs that use buprenorphine.
Sarah Mayer, 27, and her father Randy, 54, of Hilliard Ohio, share her story of addiction and recovery with NBC News.
The use of prescription painkillers recreationally is at epidemic levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is it about the pills that makes them so dangerously addictive and a potential gateway for heroin?
The surprising answer, at least to many non-medical professionals, is that the common painkillers that doctors and dentists prescribe to patients after injuries and surgeries have the same active ingredient as the drug that alleyway users inject into their arms. And both act in similar ways on the human brain to produce a sense of pleasure that can overwhelm its reasoning functions.
While many who abuse prescription painkillers think of heroin as a low-class drug that will never make its way into their lives, they don’t realize, they’re already addicted to a form of it.
Prescription painkillers of the sort that 12 million Americans used nonmedically in 2010, according to the CDC, are narcotic opioid drugs, more commonly referred to as opiates. They include hydrocodone and oxycodone, also known by the brand names Vicodin and Oxycontin, respectively.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, when opiates are consumed, they enter the bloodstream and activate neurotransmitter receptors in the brain’s reward system. Scientists call the link between the drug and the receptor a lock and key relationship, because one specific neurotransmitter activates specific receptor molecules, the same way only one key fits a particular lock.
When the opiates reach the opiate receptors, the latter release the hormone dopamine. The dopamine – which acts as an “excitatory neurotransmitter” – produces feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. It’s this action at the most basic cellular level that provides the foundation for drug addiction.
Young recovering heroin addicts Tej Yaich, 20, Holly Yates, 20 and Tara McCormac, 22, and Dr. Joseph Gay share their stories and discuss the growing heroin crisis in Ohio.
Although the initial effect of the drug is rewarding and results in a “high,” or feeling of euphoria, the effect is time stamped. When it wears off, the user feels much worse than before having taken the drug.
Addiction psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Gitlow, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, compares this phenomenon to alcohol use, saying that people drink for the immediate effect, regardless of the inevitable hangover that will follow.
"The only connection a patient makes is that use of the drug leads to immediate relief -- not the longer-lasting discomfort that follows. Unfortunately, the drug causes both the immediate relief and the following discomfort. As time passes, the discomfort becomes more apparent than the relief and the drug is used merely in an effort to avoid the discomfort that the drug has caused in the first place."
Gitlow explains that humans are not biologically programmed to think about cause and effect in this way. “The only thing a patient connects in their head is with the immediate relief -- not the effect felt days later,” he said.
Also, as with alcohol, the pleasurable effect diminishes over time, he said.
At the cellular level, chronic activation of the opiate receptors eventually saturates them -- requiring higher and higher dosages of the drugs to achieve the same pleasant feeling. It is for this reason that an addict will seek more potent forms of the opioids.
“There are certain medications that invite an escalation to more serious drugs and narcotics and opiates are two of those” said Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC News chief medical editor.
The speed with which the different forms of opiates enter the bloodstream and flood receptors depends on the form in which it’s consumed, explains Snyderman. Consuming a pill by mouth can take up to a few hours to have an effect because it has to be digested by the stomach and intestines before it makes its way into the bloodstream. Injection is the second-fastest way to achieve the desired effect, as the drug enters the bloodstream instantly but has to make its way to the brain. Snorting a crushed pill or a powder crosses the blood-brain barrier in a matter of seconds; that’s what makes snorting so addicting and the drug delivery system of choice.
It also means there’s less margin for error if a person has a drug reaction or overdoses, Snyderman said.
In an opiate overdose a person may experience confusion and physical discomfort. In severe cases, a person’s breathing can slow down so much that breathing stops, resulting in a fatal overdose. The CDC estimates that more than 100 people die every day from unintentional drug overdoses -- many of them involving prescription pain killers.
In addition to the immediate effects produced by the drugs, numerous short- and long-term side effects can be associated with opiate use and abuse.
Among the most common side effects reported are constipation, nausea and what’s known as pin-point pupils. As an addict increases consumption, the side effects become more severe and can include extreme sleepiness and slowed respiration and pulse rates.
The most widely known side effect is the physical dependence that occurs with long-term use.
Dr. Joe Gay, director of Health Recovery Services in Ohio, points out that “As tolerance goes up, susceptibility to withdrawal becomes a real factor.” Withdrawal symptoms can be excruciating and including muscle aches, anxiety, sweating and insomnia, to name a few.
Like any addiction, opiate abuse is considered a relapsing brain disease. While you can’t predict whether a given person will become addicted to drugs or not, certain factors can increase a person’s risk, including genetic makeup, environment, socioeconomic status, and others, researchers say.
One example comes out of a new study from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, in the June issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. It found that adolescents and young adults with mental health disorders were about 2 ½ times more likely to become long-term opioid (synthetic opiate) users that their peers without such disorders.
Msnbc.com contributor Rita Rubin also contributed to this report.
Read more of NBC's special report:
Sarah Mayer, 27, and her father Randy, 54, of Hilliard Ohio, share her story of addiction and recovery with NBC News.
LANCASTER, Ohio -- Holly Yates started using painkillers in the ninth grade, at parties and hanging out with friends. The pills were everywhere, easy to get and cheap. By the time she was 18, she was abusing oxycodone, Percocet and other pills every day.
Then they stopped being enough.
“My cousin, she was into heroin and I started hanging out with her,” said Yates, a hazel-eyed 20-year-old. “She told me about it, and I was like, ‘I want to try it.’ The first time that I shot it up, it was like, ‘Where has this been all my life?’”
Experts say Yates and others in this town of about 38,000 southeast of Columbus are on the leading edge of a frightening new drug abuse trend – one that is ironically being fueled by a national crackdown on prescription painkillers. While new regulations and law enforcement efforts have significantly reduced the supply of these drugs, they say, those efforts have inadvertently driven many users to another type of opiate that is cheap, powerful and perhaps even more destructive – heroin.
“It’s an epidemic,” said Dr. Joe Gay, director of the regional addiction and mental health clinic Health Recovery Services, who has studied patterns of drug use in the state.
A flood of cheap heroin from Mexico, which is now one of the leading sources of the drug to the United States, is one reason for the return of the scourge. According to the Justice Department, the drug is showing up in new areas, including upscale suburban towns where heroin was once rare.
In Illinois, for example, researchers at Roosevelt University have found a spike in young suburban heroin abusers. Long Island, New York, has in recent years seen a rash of addiction among the young. A spike in heroin use and related crime has Dane County, Wis., reeling. Even states like Washington, where heroin has a longtime presence, have seen a sharp increase among young users. In King County, home to Seattle, nearly a third of those entering treatment for heroin abuse in 2009 were between ages 18 and 29 -- a sharp increase from a decade before.
With increased availability has come a spike in the number of visits to emergency room visits for issues related to heroin use, including a 13 percent increase from 2005 through 2009, according to the national Drug Abuse Warning Network. The highest rates of admission were for young adults, 21 to 24 years old.
“Twenty years ago, half of the heroin addicts in treatment lived in two states — New York and California,” said Gay. "(Now, in Ohio) we’re seeing it spread out of the cities, into the suburbs and into the rural areas.”
The demographics of heroin addiction are also shifting, he said.
'It's not going away'
Until a few years ago, addicts were overwhelmingly men who lived in urban areas, many of them from racial minorities. An alarming number of those entering treatment programs in Ohio -- a good measure of addiction -- are young, he said. Most are white. They are from poor rural counties and wealthy suburbs. Many are girls and women.
In Ohio, the new face of heroin addiction could be the girl or boy next door.
“Everybody does it,” Yates said. “It’s just here, and it’s not going away.”
Sarah Mayer, 27, was an early traveler on the path from dabbling in prescription pills to putting a needle in her arm.
Born and raised in Hilliard, a tree-lined suburb of Columbus, she grew up in what is, by all accounts, a loving home. Her father works at the local bank. Her mother is a nurse.
In high school, Mayer went to parties and drank occasionally, but she kept her grades up. During her last year in high school, in 2002, she took college classes. After graduation, she started a fully-paid-for nursing program. But her plans were derailed by addiction to oxycodone, an opiate-based painkiller found in many medicine cabinets across the country.
“I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Mayer said. By 2005, she and her boyfriend were taking the pills regularly to get high. But over time, the effects diminished.
One day in early 2006, Sarah and her boyfriend found themselves nearly broke and without the pills they needed. Desperate and sick with withdrawals from the opiates, her boyfriend left the house to try to find pills.
He came back with a bag of powder heroin.
“He knew how I felt about heroin,” Mayer said. “That was the one thing I said I would never do.”
Young recovering heroin addicts Tej Yaich, 20, Holly Yates, 20 and Tara McCormac, 22, and Dr. Joseph Gay share their stories and discuss the growing heroin crisis in Ohio.
Despite her conviction, within 24 hours, she had snorted it. She would spend another three years chasing that first high. “It was almost like all of the wind was knocked out of my chest, I could barely hold my head anymore,” said Mayer. “It was like my whole body just exhaled.”
Soon, she began injecting it. It would take her years, and at least six trips to recovery programs, before she successfully got clean in October 2009. She’s now working toward a degree in nursing, and recently made the dean’s list.
The addiction was something the Mayer family never saw coming.
“There was never a thought that ever entered my mind that I would ever lose a child through addiction,” said Randy Mayer, Sarah’s father. “Watching this thing grab her and not let go, I mean, it was a horrible time.”
But in Hilliard, where he also grew up, Randy Mayer said he is seeing this happen to others.
“I’ve met some other families, locally here -- they’re dealing with the same kind of situation,” he said. “The fact of the matter is, these towns like this are fertile for this to spread.”
Paul Coleman, director at the Maryhaven clinic near Columbus, where Mayer sought treatment, said about a quarter of the nearly 130 adolescents currently getting treatment there have used opiates -- something he’s never seen in his 22 years at the center.
“A few years ago if you would have asked me how many young patients I would have using opiates I wouldn't have said 25 percent,” Coleman said. “I would have said none.”
The White House has called prescription drug abuse the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially dubbed it an epidemic.
In Ohio and elsewhere, however, the beast has two heads. Opiate abuse, which includes both prescription painkillers and heroin, has become a “crisis of unparalleled proportions,” according to Ohio’s Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services. In 2001, just eight of Ohio’s 88 counties reported a significant number of patients were entering substance abuse treatment for opiate addiction. By the same measure, 85 of Ohio’s 88 counties reported an opiate problem in 2010.
The state has taken action. In 2006, it implemented a system to track prescriptions to help prevent so called “doctor shopping,” where addicts move from one physician to the next looking for prescriptions. Last year, it also passed a law to help fight “pill mills,” unscrupulous storefront clinics known for readily dispensing prescriptions.
Similar measures have been taken across the nation. Combined with new pill formulations that make the medication harder to crush up to snort or shoot, the efforts have curbed supply and abuse. Experts agree this is a positive step. But in Ohio, the crackdown has had unexpected consequences.
The pills have become expensive, and often hard to obtain. Prescription opiates now sell for anywhere from $30 to $80 dollars a pill. A $10 bag of heroin offers a similar or better high. Unable to find pills, or afford them, addicts go looking for something else to feed the craving. Heroin is cheap, plentiful and potent.
It is also deadly. In fact, the state saw a record number of heroin-related deaths in 2010, which now account for one in every five overdose deaths in the state. Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, recorded 106 heroin-related deaths in 2011 -- an increase of nearly 180 percent since 2003, according to the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office. In early May, Loraine County, Ohio, saw five fatal overdoses in 10 days due to a batch of highly potent, or badly cut, heroin. Experts worry other counties may soon follow suit, and that those dying might be among what the Ohio Department of Alcohol & Drug Addiction Services reports show is the fastest growing demographic of heroin users -- young people between ages 20 and 35.
It’s an addiction that surprises even those who find themselves in its grip.
“If you were to tell me that I was going to use heroin ... the same week in which I used it, I probably would have laughed in your face,” said Tej Yaich, a 20-year-old from Pickerington, Ohio. “That’s something that I would never have done.”
For Yaich, who has been sober for more than a year, addiction started at home. His parents had prescriptions sitting unused in the medicine cabinet. Yaich said he was 15 when he first tried them, crushing them up at night so his parents wouldn’t hear the noise. The experiment became a habit. Then the supply started to dry up.
“One day I went to call my guy that was selling to me and he said he didn’t have pills at that time, but he had something equally as good,” said Yaich. “He said, ‘You’ll like it.’”
What the dealer had was heroin, and he was right. Yaich started by snorting it, then quickly moved on to shooting up. From one bag, he worked himself up to two, then five. At the height of his addiction, he said, he injected up to 25 bags a day.
Yaich’s story is typical of those that Dr. Steven Matson hears from young people coming into his clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. Matson, who helped Yaich recover, runs a program there that uses a fairly new medication called buprenorphine, a semi-synthetic opioid that when used correctly helps to curb cravings to assist in recovery.
When Matson started this work three years ago, the young people coming into his clinic were “fringe,” he said. Now they are as often from upscale suburbs of Columbus as from poorer, more rural areas.
“Because of the availability of these drugs now, it is not an usual story that we hear, ‘I went to a party, some friends there were doing heroin, so I shot up,’” he said. “It seems like madness that you would go to a party and never have used anything and then use heroin. But that’s what’s happening with some children.”
Matson’s program also helped Holly Yates recover. She’s been sober since Thanksgiving Day 2010. For more than a year, she’s held a job as a stylist at a local hair salon. She saved up to buy herself a silver Honda Accord. In the back seat are two car seats for her young nephews, who her older brothers now trust her to babysit.
But things can be lonely in Lancaster, where she says nearly everyone her age uses drugs, and many are hooked on heroin.
“It’s just hard being young and staying clean,” Yates said. “I mean this town, it’s just, like, that’s all that’s here.”
“I just want kids my age to know that you don’t have to keep using,” she added. “You can be clean, and you can have a better life.”
During pregnancy, and even decades later, a baby's influence on mom runs deep — cell deep. While the fetus develops inside the womb, its cells mix and mingle with the mother's after traveling through the placenta, and can stay there for years.
In a new study, researchers discovered cells from the placenta and the fetus inside a pregnant mouse's lungs. They were even able to tell that some of the cells were immune cells, while others looked like undefined connective tissue.
"We and other people have shown they stay around for decades. They aren't the original cells so there must be some way they can give rise to daughter cells in the mother's body," study researcher Diana Bianchi of Tufts University, told LiveScience. "We strongly believe that there are implications for the future health of women who are or have previously been pregnant."
The researchers aren't sure how fetal cells get across the placenta into the mother, but it's possible that there are leaky spots (which get bigger as pregnancy reaches term) in the cells that form the barrier between the baby's blood and the mother's blood in the placenta.
They also don't know what the cells do in the mother's body, or what types of cells they are. So Bianchi and her colleagues studied pregnant mice to see what types of cells they could find in the mother's lungs.
To track the fetal cells, Bianchi's graduate student, Stephanie Pritchard, mated a male mouse that had two copies of the green fluorescent protein gene with a normal female. This gene was present in every fetus he fertilized, so when these fetal cells made it into the mother's organs, the researchers were able to recognize the fluorescent signal and separate those cells from the mother's own cells.
Next, they analyzed the genetics of these captured fetal cells to see which genes were turned on, comparing these "expressed" genes with data for the genes expressed by various cell types. They found the genetic signatures of cells matched those derived from the placenta, and from two types of fetal cells: immune cells and undifferentiated cells that make up the connective tissues, called mesenchymal cells.
The immune cells may help ensure that the mother's immune system doesn't "reject" the fetus (as it would a transplanted organ that isn't a genetic match), but the researchers don't really know what role the undifferentiated mesenchymal cells have.
These mesenchymal cells could play a role in regeneration or healing of the mother's tissues, the researchers speculate. For instance, these fetal cells have been found integrated into lung tissue, and researchers have seen them come to the rescue when maternal heart tissue is injured. They've also shown up at the site of tumors.
"They are younger cells and they do appear to have different capabilities," Bianchi said. "That's an area for future research: to determine if an undifferentiated cell from the fetus has different regenerative capability than the mother's own stem cells."
The study was published June 6 in the journal Biology of Reproduction.
More stories from LiveScience
Singer Sheryl Crow recently revealed she had been diagnosed with a meningioma, a type of brain tumor that accounts for nearly 30 percent of brain tumors in the U.S. More than 90 percent of them are benign. NBC's Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports.
When news broke that singer Sheryl Crow has a benign brain tumor called a meningioma, her representative swatted away concern by saying that “half of us are walking around with [a meningioma] but you don’t really know unless you happen to have an MRI.”
Despite that unnamed representative’s effort to make a brain tumor sound like a pimple, meningiomas are not anywhere near so universal, and, despite the “benign” designation, can be dangerous, leading to severe disabilities, and, in rare cases, death.
“About 2 to 3 percent are malignant,” Dr. Elizabeth Claus, director of medical research at the Yale School of Public Health, a neurosurgeon at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the principal investigator for the multi-institution Meningioma Consortium, explained in an interview. “Then that is a very serious situation because there’s not much in the way of great treatments. They can metastasize, say to the lungs, and no chemotherapy will work for it.”
As the name indicates, a meningioma is a cancer of the meninges, the protective lining that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, often also called the dura.
Jason Merritt / Getty Images
Sheryl Crow, shown in 2011, announced she has a benign brain tumor called a meningioma.
It’s true that meningiomas are one of the most common types of brain tumors, comprising about one-third of all benign brain tumors, but meningiomas are not nearly as common as Crow’s rep would have you believe. As of 2005, approximately 138,000 Americans were known to have been diagnosed of meningioma.
However, explained Dr. Marc Mayberg, a neurosurgeon at Seattle’s Swedish Neuroscience Institute, “there may be many more, up to 10 times more patients but these people are unaware of it because the tumor is asymptomatic.”
Sheryl Crow fits perfectly into the meningioma demographic. She’s 50, and rates of meningiomas are highest in middle-aged women.
Recently, medicine, which has focused on treating very deadly brain tumors like gliomas, has realized that it’s been giving benign brain tumors short shrift, so meningiomas have been the subject of renewed scientific interest.
Radiation to the head and neck is the only well-defined cause found so far. A study released last month from UCLA identified 27 cases of meningiomas over a 10-year-period that appear to have arisen following radiation to the head. While such treatments have usually been used to attack other cancers, “in the 1940s and 1950s,” Claus said, “kids were sometimes treated with radiation for all kinds of things, even ringworm, and those kids have a ten-fold increased chance of developing a meningioma.”
A more common source of radiation may also spark meningiomas.
A study by Claus in the April issue of Cancer linked the tumors to dental x-rays. “Over a lifetime, cases were more than twice as likely as controls…to report having ever had a bitewing examination.”
Claus and her co-authors stressed that the elevated risk primarily resulted from X-ray exams “performed in the past, when radiation exposure was greater than in the current era.”
Studies of cell phone radiation have shown that use of the devices presents no increased risk of meningioma.
The fact that meningiomas are more than twice as common in women as in men, and that they have hormone receptors on their cells, may indicate that estrogen levels or progesterone exposures may also be involved with the tumors’ development. There’s a family association, too, so genetic heritage may play a role.
The danger of meningiomas usually comes from the neural structures they can affect, often by pressing on neurons as the tumors grow. “Basically it is size and symptoms,” Claus explained. “The larger it is, the more likely to cause problems. It can actually be wrapped around the eye and you can lose vision. You can lose speech, and on down the list.” Meningiomas can affect one’s sense of smell, equilibrium, and physical strength.
Meningiomas are treated, or not, depending on how fast growing they are and what structures, if any, they are affecting. About half of people diagnosed with one require no treatment. Often, Mayberg explained, the tumor simply stops growing. Nobody knows why. When treatment is required, doctors typically opt for surgical removal, or radiation therapy to shrink the tumor.
According to Mayberg, the risk of recurrence depends on a patient’s age – the longer one lives the greater chance you’ll live long enough to have a regrowth – and how much of the original tumor was removed. If any tumor remains after surgery, the risk of recurrence is more than 20 percent.
Brian Alexander (www.BrianRAlexander.com) is co-author, with Larry Young PhD., of "The Chemistry Between Us: Love Sex and the Science of Attraction," (www.TheChemistryBetweenUs.com) to be published Sept. 13.
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Courtesy of the ISMP
Ciba Vision, makers of Clear Care contact lens cleaner, recently updated the product's packaging and labels. But a patient safety group says the changes aren't enough to halt reports of painful eye injuries.
Amid ongoing reports of burning eyes and emergency injuries, the makers of a popular contact lens solution have failed to adequately warn consumers about the dangers of using the product improperly, a patient safety group says.
Labels on bottles of Clear Care contact lens cleaner, sold by Ciba Vision, don’t carry a strong enough caution that the 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution shouldn’t be used directly in the eyes, or clear enough warnings that it must be used only with the product’s proprietary case that neutralizes the solution.
That's according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, a nonprofit medication safety agency that has been lobbying for two years to get the firm to bolster its warning labels.
“It’s definitely not adequate. Obviously we’re still hearing these things,” said Michael R. Cohen, president of the ISMP.
Minor label changes were made last year, but Cohen said patients to continue to report accidentally putting the caustic chemical in their eyes, causing severe pain and, in some cases, serious harm. The reports range from dozens of formal complaints filed with government health officials to anecdotal surveys of random groups of contact lens users.
“This isn’t just a trickle of reports, it’s a gusher,” said Cohen, who said he has heard, seen or reviewed hundreds of complaints about Clear Care effects since 2010. “I think it probably ranks up there with the largest number we have ever seen for one product issue.”
However, officials with Ciba Vision, a Novartis company, and the federal Food and Drug Administration, say the firm has updated its labeling several times, most recently in 2011, and that the cautions are now strong enough.
“We believed that these changes were adequate to communicate the warnings to the end users,” said FDA spokeswoman Sarah Clark-Lynn.
The bottles now include a red warning dubbed “Important,” clear instructions to use only the special case and not to put the product directly in the eye. That's in addition to a cardboard collar that warns of potential misuse.
“The new package and label more prominently display the 3 percent hydrogen peroxide content and draw attention to possible consequences (like burning and stinging) of misuse,” said Elizabeth Power, a spokeswoman for Novartis. The product has been used for 30 years, she added.
At least 110 reports of eye problems caused by Clear Care have been reported since 2000 through the federal Food and Drug Administration’s MAUDE device monitoring system, including more than a dozen filed in the last half of 2011 and early 2012, after the packaging was altered. Because the FDA’s system is voluntary, the numbers likely represent a fraction of actual cases, perhaps as little as 1 percent, experts have estimated.
Many of the MAUDE reports describe confusion because Clear Care bottles look the same and are sold near other multipurpose contact lens solutions used for rinsing and soaking lenses. Those products can be used directly in the eye with no problem.
However, Clear Care is a cleaning solution that uses 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to remove dirt and film from contact lenses. It uses a special holder outfitted with a platinum ring that neutralizes the peroxide after about six hours. Instructions on the bottle clearly say that Clear Care should only be used with the special case and never on lenses put immediately into the eye.
When consumers fail to follow those directions, the results are immediate -- and excruciating.
“My eye slammed shut like I had acid in it and it took me 5 minutes to dig it out,” said a user in a MAUDE report filed July 26, 2011. “I believe there should be a huge caution banner across the bottle so consumers understand the result of not using their ‘special case’ is that your eye will be burned with peroxide.”
Several consumers reported that they rushed to hospital emergency rooms, where they were diagnosed with chemical burns, corneal ulcerations and other problems. Typical treatment included eye patches and antibiotic eye drops.
It’s an easy mistake to make, said Nancy Metcalf, a senior program editor for Consumer Reports whose 24-year-old daughter was visiting from college a couple years ago and accidentally used Clear Care directly in her eyes.
“I could hear her screaming,” Metcalf recalled. “She was up in the bathroom screaming. I jammed her eye under the faucet. Her eyes were burning for a couple of days.”
Metcalf still uses Clear Care, which she says is a great product for removing deposits and films from the lenses. But she also makes certain not to mix it up with her multipurpose contact solutions.
Hydrogen peroxide will cause a caustic burn if it gets in the eyes, confirmed Dr. Thomas Steinemann, a clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a professor of ophthalmology at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.
“Holy cow, if you put the lens in your eye with fresh peroxide on it, you might as well have lighted a fire in your eye,” he said.
But Steinemann also said it’s up to the 36 million to 38 million U.S. contact lens wearers to be aware of what product they’re using and how it works before it gets anywhere near their delicate eye tissue. He recommends consulting an eye care expert before using any new product.
“I hate to say it, but the burden of responsibility is on the user,” Steinemann said. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, you shouldn’t be doing it.”
Cohen, on the other hand, would like to see Ciba Vision add labels that say “Danger!” or “Warning!” to the Clear Care bottles. Even better, the firm should redesign the packaging so that the nozzle of the bottle can fit only into the special case.
“We’re talking about unsuspecting kids and others who use what they think is contact lens soak and wind up in the ER in excruciating pain,” he said. “Seems to me this product should either be a prescription item or redesigned to make it impossible.”
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NBC News partner ITV News reports on the outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Scotland.
LONDON -- One man has died and 15 other people were listed in critical condition on Wednesday following an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Edinburgh, Scotland. Authorities believe the disease may have been spread by industrial cooling towers, potentially including some at a whisky distillery.
Public health officials were investigating a further 15 suspected cases of the disease and say more cases could emerge in the coming days.
The victim was a man aged in his 50s, who had underlying health problems, while 13 men and two women aged between 33 and 74 were in critical condition, according to The Scotsman newspaper.
The source of the outbreak is still being investigated.
The disease is contracted by breathing in small droplets of contaminated water, and is often traced to artificial water systems such as air conditioning units or cooling towers.
All the cases so far are linked to the Gorgie, Saughton and Dalry areas in the south-west of the city. Britain’s Sky News reported that samples have been taken from 16 cooling towers at four industrial sites in those areas. However, it will be days before any firm link can be established.
Shortbread cookie link?
Sky News said one of the cooling towers being investigated was at a Scotch whisky plant while another was a shortbread cookie factory. There is no evidence either site is linked to the outbreak.
The first case was identified on May 28. Sky News said health officials believe infected droplets may have been in the air on May 20 when thousands gathered to watch a victory parade by local soccer team Heart of Midlothian. The club won the Scottish Cup the previous day.
The disease is named after its first recognized outbreak, which occurred among people attending a state convention of the American Legion in Philadelphia in 1976. That remains the world’s deadliest case, with 34 victims, and was traced to a hotel air conditioning system cooling tower.
According to the World Health Organization website, Legionnaires' disease is not contagious and can take up to two weeks to develop.
Symptoms include mild headaches and muscle pain, escalating to a high fever, persistent cough and sometimes vomiting, diarrhea and confusion.
It is treatable in the majority cases, but can be fatal in those with weakened immune systems or underlying health problems such as poor lungs.
'Very, very severe'
Professor Hugh Pennington, one of the world's leading bacteriology experts, told ITV News: “Essentially it is a preventable disease. Industrial water cooling towers are quite a common source of the bug. The bug lives in warm, fresh water. Basically what should be done is disinfectant should be put in the water to basically stop the bug growing. Well, clearly that hasn't happened and the aerosol of water that comes out of these cooling towers contains the bug, people breathe it in and then they get Legionnaires' disease which is essentially a very, very severe pneumonia.
"It particularly affects people who already have weakened lungs through previous disease or immune-suppressed or elderly, so because it's aerosol it can spread on the wind and that's one of the reasons why it's quite difficult to track down a particular source."
ITV News is the British partner of NBC News.
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Trametinib, a new drug for treating melanoma, is showing promise in clinical trials. NBC's Robert Bazell reports.
An experimental new drug called trametinib is showing great promise in treating the deadliest of skin cancers, advanced melanoma.
In data presented at the annual meeting of The American Society for Clinical Oncology, from a trial that followed more than 300 patients, those who took trametinib appeared to do better than those who used traditional chemotherapy.
Median time of survival with no progression of cancer was 4.8 months in the trametinib patients, compared with 1.5 months for those on the traditional regimen. That might not sound like much, but such results often indicate that patients with less-advanced cancer will do far better on the drug than the volunteers in the trial. The results are good enough that the drug’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, will apply to the federal Food and Drug Administration for approval.
That news followed a report two days earlier in which scientists showed that a more experimental drug called PD-1 antibody could boost the immune system and help patients with advanced melanoma, as well as those with lung and kidney cancer. That drug, however, is still years away from heading for the FDA.
These individual results are part of a much bigger picture. In the vast majority of cases, melanoma is caught early and cured by surgery. But if it returns it can be deadly -- and until recently it almost always was. But in the past year and a half, the FDA has approved new drugs for advanced melanoma. There’s Zelboraf, which, like trametinib, targets an aberrant gene that drives the cancer. And there’s Yervoy, which boosts the immune response. Several other experimental drugs using both approaches are in the pipeline.
Experts like Dr. Keith Flaherty of Massachusetts General Hospital say the care of patients with advanced melanoma has changed drastically. Eighteen months ago, he told me that the best hope for patients was to participate in a clinical trial with experimental therapy.
“Now,” he added, “we have multiple new treatments which we know can be game-changers in a profound way – and in the long-term. So it really does give us a sense of control -- doctor and patient -- over a circumstance over which we never had control.”
One of the things doctors are trying to figure out is in what combinations or in what sequences they can best use the new drugs. But there is a big problem. Companies price these drugs at tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes more than $100,000 a year. Many doctors and policy experts are asking whether the medical system can continue to withstand these charges.
At the same time, cancer doctors are still experiencing frightening shortages of older, very inexpensive drugs which keep many patients alive. The FDA says it has no power to tell companies which drugs to make. But it’s clear the shortages of the cheap drugs and the enormous costs of the new experimental ones are both sources of huge concern
A 6-year-old Massachusetts boy has died after a mystery E. coli infection. WHDH-TV's Ryan Schulteis reports.
The death of a 6-year-old Massachusetts boy after a mystery E. coli infection continues to stump health officials searching for the source.
Owen Carrignan of Millbury died May 26 after developing hemolytic uremic syndrome, the most serious complication of infection with dangerous strains of E. coli bacteria. The first-grader was infected with E. coli O157:H7, the strain most often associated with illnesses tied to ground beef.
But Owen didn’t appear to have contact with hamburger or other beef before he became ill starting around May 20, said Derek S. Brindisi, the Worcester, Mass., director of public health. In fact, it’s still not at all clear what made Owen sick.
“It’s primarily a foodborne illness pathogen,” noted Brindisi. “But it could be food, it could be a secondary exposure, a cross-contamination or exposure to another animal or person.”
Owen's mother, Michelle Carrignan, told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that the boy spent the night at a friend's house. His father, Shawn Carrignan, separately said the boy ate a hot dog at a barbecue. But Brindisi said more recent interviews suggested that Owen already had symptoms before those events and that they were unlikely to be the cause.
After becoming ill, Owen quickly worsened, eventually developing kidney failure caused by HUS.
“It should never happen, you know? A 6-year-old boy full of life,” Todd Carrignan, Owen’s uncle, told WHDH, an NBC affiliate.
Before his death, Owen was a healthy, active boy with a bright smile who loved the outdoors, playing sports and wrestling with his sisters, a family memorial said.
On Monday, a team of local health officials, with advice from state epidemiologists, had expanded their investigation of Owen’s death, Brindisi said.
They’re looking closely at his diet throughout the month of May, not just in the one- to 10-day incubation period for E. coli O157:H7.
Food samples from retail venues, including stores and restaurants, that may have provided food that Owen ate are being examined at state laboratories, said Brindisi, who declined to identify the specific foods being tested.
E. coli O157:H7 causes about 36 percent of the 265,000 infections caused by Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, known as STECs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Serious complications, such as HUS, are more common in children, the elderly and people with other health problems.
So far, there are no other reports of E. coli infection related to Owen’s, Brindisi said.
In many cases, the source of isolated E. coli infections is never detected. Only about 20 percent of E. coli cases are part of recognized outbreaks. Still Massachusetts health officials plan to exhaust all options.
“Each day, we learn new information,” Brindisi said.
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Before her second son, Hayes, was born a year ago, Erin Carroll was determined to breast-feed him.
Courtesy Erin Carroll
Erin Carroll and second son, Hayes, seen here at 4 months. Erin gave up breast-feeding Hayes when a hospital nurse insisted he needed formula because he'd lost too much weight.
“With my first one, I didn’t really have any expectations or plans for anything,” says Carroll, 30, a stay-at-home mom in Columbia, S.C.
Breast-feeding didn’t exactly work out with her first son, Hudson, three years ago. Hudson weighed nearly 10 pounds at birth, and, Carroll says, she couldn’t produce enough milk for him. He lost nearly 2 pounds, and by the time he was 6 weeks, she was feeding him formula exclusively.
With Hayes, “it turned out that I was making enough for him, but he just fell asleep any time I tried to nurse him.” Before they left the hospital when he was 3 days old, Carroll says, a nurse told her “he’s lost too much weight. We’ve got to do formula.” Carroll says, “I was devastated.”
Carroll is like many women with the best intentions about breast-feeding, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the first to examine the discrepancy between how long pregnant women say they intend to exclusively breast-feed and how long they actually do.
Carroll continued supplementing Hayes’ feedings with formula and by her first postpartum doctor’s appointment four weeks after his birth had decided to stop nursing him altogether.
“Omigosh, this formula is so easy,” Carroll recalls thinking. “It was sad at first, because I really just thought it would be different [with Hayes], and I didn’t have the same issues with both of them.”
Roughly half of the women in the new study said before they delivered they planned to breast-feed exclusively for at least three months, the CDC researchers report Monday in Pediatrics. But only a third of those women actually achieved their goal.
“The one that shocks me is the fact that 42 percent stopped in the first month,” lead author Cria Perrine, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, tells msnbc.com. And about a third of those women had abandoned plans to exclusively breast-feed by the time they took their baby home from the hospital.
“To me, this isn’t about the individual women,” Perrine says. “This to me says we as a society are not supporting mothers to feed their infants the way they want to.”
The study analyzed data from about 1,500 U.S. women in a 2005-2007 study of infant feeding practices. Most of the women were 25- to 34 years-old, white and married and had some post-high school education. Their babies were all healthy.
The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that mothers feed babies only breast milk (and medications or micronutrient supplements) for their first six months of life. “Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for young children and provides both short- and long-term health benefits,” including fewer infections and a lower risk of chronic conditions later in life, Perrine and her coauthors write.
The proportion of 6-month-old babies who’ve been exclusively breast-fed has increased in the United States, according to the CDC. In 2011, 14.8 percent were — up 4 percentage points from 2007, the first year the CDC issued a breast-feeding “report card.” That’s still well below the government’s target of 25.5 percent in the “Healthy People 2020” report.
In Perrine’s study, married moms with more than one child were more likely to exclusively breastfeed as long as they’d intended to. Moms who were obese, smoked or planned to breastfeed exclusively for at least seven months, which is longer than the minimum recommended by health experts, were less likely to meet their goal.
The researchers also found that six hospital practices helped predict whether new mothers would exclusively breast-feed as long as they’d planned:
The most significant predictor was whether the hospital had supplemented breastfeeding with formula, which was reported by four out of 10 women in the study. Last summer, Perrine says, the CDC reported that about four out of five hospitals routinely gave formula to healthy breastfeeding newborns.
“I don’t think we know exactly why all of the hospitals are giving the formula,” says Perrine, whose study didn’t count those supplemental feedings as the end of exclusive breast-feeding. “I think it could be the weight issue. I think some nurses say let the mother sleep. It comes from a place of good intentions, but not everyone realizes how detrimental it can be to establishing breastfeeding.”
Dr. Bill Sears' theory of "attachment parenting" is making headlines after a Time magazine cover story featured a photo of a mother breast-feeding her 3-year-old. NBC's Darlene Rodriguez reports on this parenting technique and TODAY's Savannah Guthrie speaks with the mother in the now-infamous photo and Dr. Sears.
A spate of bizarre acts of cannibalism in the last week have many people wondering whether to be afraid for their own flesh. The populous' collective curiosity has even driven "zombie apocalypse" up to the No. 2 spot on Google's list of trending search terms. But don't worry: according to government scientists, the zombies are not coming for you.
The flesh-eating living dead don't actually exist, said a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms)," agency spokesman David Daigle told The Huffington Post. The CDC has even put out advisories on the zombie theme.
But what prompted the official reassurance?
The questions started after an attack in Miami on Saturday, when Rudy Eugene, 31, was shot and killed by police while hungrily devouring the face of a homeless man. Eugene, who may have been high on " bath salts " at the time of his vicious attack, seemed impervious to the bullets entering his naked body until the moment he collapsed, police said.
Then, on Tuesday, Alexander Kinyua, a 21-year-old student in Maryland, admitted to murdering his roommate and then eating his heart and parts of his brain. The cannibal's motives have not been explained. [Video: '5 Things I Learned from Living with Cannibals]
Meanwhile, Canadian police are seeking Luka Rocco Magnotta, a low-budget porn actor who allegedly killed and dismembered a young man, and then ate flesh from the corpse. He packaged and mailed other body parts to political offices in Ottawa.
Okay, zombies may not really exist, but clearly the world has troubles enough as it is.
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By Linda Thrasybule
In rare cases, people have gone into cardiac arrest and died after being shocked in the chest with stun guns such as Tasers, and now researchers say they better understand why this happens.
Researchers looked at eight cases involving men and teen boys who lost consciousness after getting shocked by the TASER X26, a weapon widely used by law enforcement and the military.
In each case, the stun gun was applied to the chest, and the individuals experienced cardiac arrest after their hearts began to beat either too fast or abnormally.
Seven of the eight males died, while one survived with impaired memory.
“In no way am I saying that we shouldn’t use Taser weapons, but if you use it, be aware that cardiac arrest is a possibility,” said study author Dr. Douglas Zipes, a cardiologist at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
Stun-gun use can be risky
The handgun-shaped weapon shoots two barbed darts into a person’s skin or clothing. The darts are connected to wires that deliver 50,000 volts of electrical current for five seconds. The shock temporarily subdues the individual, causing them pain and muscle contractions.
“I think many law enforcement users are not aware of the possibility of cardiac arrest,” Zipes said.
In 2009, stun gun manufacturers advised users to avoid shooting the weapons at people's chests. But it doesn’t seem that the message has gotten out, Zipes noted.
The safety of stun guns has been questioned by advocacy groups such as Amnesty International, which reported more than 300 stun gun-related deaths in the U.S. between 2001 and 2008.
Zipes recommended that users pull the trigger a single time to avoid repeated or lasting shocks.
“That should be sufficient,” he said. “But that’s a judgment they have to make in the field.”
Cause of cardiac arrest still unclear
The eight cases that Zipes analyzed were under litigation, and involved healthy males who were shocked near or over the heart. All lost consciousness after receiving the shock.
In six cases, records of heart rhythms after the shock showed ventricular tachycardia, a condition where the heart beats too fast, and ventricular fibrillation, where the heart beats irregularly. In one case, the person did not respond and had no heartbeat.
The study adds to existing evidence, including studies in pigs, sheep and humans, which show that stun guns aimed at the chest may lead to cardiac arrest. But not all deaths following stun-gunshocks can be linked to electrical shock, Zipes noted.
Dr. Robert Myerburg, a cardiologist at the University of Miami who wasn’t involved with the study, said that while he doesn't disagree with the information reported in the study, he also isn’t entirely convinced that shocks to the chest are always the cause of cardiac arrest.
"Most, if not all of the incidents, were associated with stressful situations — that can also contribute to triggering cardiac arrest," Myerburg said.
Zipes suggested that stun-gun users avoid shooting at the chest, and monitor the person after they have been shocked. Stun-gun users should be prepared to resuscitate anyone who loses consciousness with an external defibrillator, he said.
The study was published in the May issue of the journal Circulation.
Young women who report that their romantic partners look at porn frequently are less happy in their relationships than women partnered with guys who more often abstain, new research finds.
The study bolsters some anecdotal evidence that men's porn use can shake the self-esteem of their girlfriends or wives, though certainly not all couples have conflicts over pornography, said study researcher Destin Stewart, a clinical psychology intern at the University of Florida. Stewart decided to investigate the effect of porn on relationships after some of her clients revealed that they were struggling with the issue.
Discovering explicit material on a partner's computer "made them feel like they were not good enough, like they could not measure up," Stewart told LiveScience.
What women think of porn
A number of studies that have interviewed women about pornography find a range of feelings on the topic, from "scathing to mildly positive," Stewart and University of Tennessee psychologist Dawn Szymanski wrote online May 6 in the journal Sex Roles. Nevertheless, concerns about measuring up to the images found in pornography were a common theme. In one 1999 study, for example, a participant told researchers, "These men look at these pictures and say, 'Look at her. She's just beautiful. Why can't you be like that?'" [ Is Porn Bad For You? ]
Few of these studies had hard numbers to back up the interviews, however. Stewart wanted to understand how widespread these feelings might be. She recruited 308 college women, ages 18 to 29 years old, to fill out online questionnaires about their current partner's porn use as well as their relationship quality, sexual satisfaction and self-esteem. All of the women were heterosexual and most were white.
The results showed that women who reported that their boyfriends or husbands looked at more pornography were less likely to be happy in their relationships than women who said their partners didn't look at pornography very often. When women were bothered by their partner's porn use, saying, for example, that they believed he was a porn addict or that he used porn more than a "normal" amount, they were also more likely to have low self-esteem and to be less satisfied with both their relationship and their sex life.
Sex and self-esteem
The findings showed that the statistical link between frequency of porn use and relationship dissatisfaction was partially explained by low self-esteem among the women in these relationships. But that doesn't prove that porn necessarily caused the women's self-esteem to drop. It's a chicken-and-egg problem, Stewart said: Women whose partners watch a lot of porn might begin to feel more insecure. Or women who feel bad about themselves might seek out or stay with porn-loving guys more often than secure women. [ 6 Tips for a Happy Relationship ]
The study is limited to a youthful demographic, and most of the relationships were short-term, Stewart said. Because most of the couples weren't co-habitating, the women might not know how much porn their partners actually watched, she said.
"You might be more dissatisfied knowing that your husband of 10 years is looking at pornography versus your 18-year-old boyfriend where you have no idea what he looks at on his computer," Stewart said.
When pornography does become a problem in relationships, Stewart said she counsels women not to compare themselves with porn starlets. In couples counseling, she encourages communication and compromise.
"It's just about trying to do some education about what is realistic and unrealistic and trying to get couples to be honest about what their wants and needs and desires are," Stewart said.
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