An independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) met this week to review interim data from a large, international HIV vaccine clinical trial known as the STEP study — also referred to as the HVTN 502 or Merck V520-023 study. The clinical trial, which began enrolling volunteers in December 2004, is co-sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Inc., which also developed and supplied the candidate vaccine. Based on a review of interim data, the DSMB concluded that the vaccine cannot be shown in this trial to prevent HIV infection or affect the course of the disease in those who become infected with HIV (the vaccine itself cannot cause HIV infection because it contains only synthetically produced snippets of viral material). Therefore, Merck and NIAID instructed all study sites to cease administering the investigational vaccine but continue scheduled follow-up visits with all volunteers until the data can be more thoroughly evaluated and a course of action is developed. The same Merck candidate HIV vaccine is also being tested in South Africa by the HVTN and the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative in a separate NIAID-sponsored clinical trial known as HVTN 503 or the “Phambili” study. This study was initiated in February 2007 and has enrolled 799 individuals. Immunizations and enrollment in the Phambili study have now been paused.
Clinical Alert: Immunizations Are Discontinued in Two HIV Vaccine Trials
Contraband toys as a public health risk
The recent recall of Mattel toys due to high lead content has garnered a lot of public attention, to be sure — but recalls are impossible in cases where the toys themselves are smuggled, pirated or contraband. A recent article from Inter Press News Service cites business estimates and studies suggesting that over half of the toys on the market in Mexico are contraband or illegal copies, a figure the article sets at 25% for Brazil and in a similar range for other countries across Latin America. Even as Latin American countries try to set higher standards for quality and safety for imported products such as toys, they acknowledge that the possible safety threat posed by contraband items is difficult for them to address. Read the story from Tierramérica in English or in Spanish.
Corpus Christi struggles with public water safety
This article from Sunday’s Corpus Christi Caller-Times provides a good summary of the month-long struggle that city has had with problems in the public water system, which culminated last week with the announcement that samples had tested positive for E. coli, followed by a citywide boil-water notice and the abrupt resignation of the city’s water director.
COWs in Rural Hospitals
Computers on Wheels or COWs are being used at Delhi Hospital in Louisana. “The computers can be easily transported to patients’ rooms for faster access of information. The Delhi facility is the first rural Louisiana hospital to become part of the Rural Hospital Coalition, a file database linked to LSU hospitals.” To read more about the COWs, click on the link below.
Current health news source: MedlinePlus
MedlinePlus is an excellent resource for consumer health education, but did you know that it is also a great source of current and comprehensive health news? The “Health News” section of MedlinePlus is updated every weekday, and Reuters and HealthDay news stories remain on the site for 90 days. A direct link to the complete list of Health News items is available from the main MedlinePlus page, and each health topic also includes a link to “latest news” in the Basics section of the main health topic page. You can even get the latest health news on specific topics by email if you subscribe to a free service that alerts you when new information is available and set up your personal profile.
Depression More Deadly for Diabetics
Recently posted information in the New York Times appears to show that treating older patients who suffer from diabetes as well as depression, can live longer when both health issues are addressed.
The five-year study, involving approximately 600 patients suffering from depression, also included 123 individuals with a history of diabetes. Split into two groups, one was treated by primary care doctors and the other group received more focused treatment under the direction of a depression case manager. The results showed the treatment for depression did not influence the death rates among the non-diabetic patients, but it did make a considerable difference in those patients with diabetes. The group who worked with the case manager was half as likely to die as those who received the less specialized care.
An article on the randomized controlled trial appears in the December 2007 issue of Diabetes Care.
Día del Médico
Tomorrow is “el Día del Médico” in Mexico, which has been celebrated on 23 October annually since 1930. In recognizing the event, Notimex cites a recent international study called “The Global Doctor” in which market research firm Grupo Psyma AG surveyed 600 doctors in China, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United States and Mexico. The results of that study indicate that despite working conditions that are not always optimal, doctors in Mexico (both specialists and general practitioners) report a very high level of satisfaction with their work and with their personal lives — higher than in many of the other surveyed countries. The article notes that:
“One of the reasons that doctors feel satisfaction for their profession, despite adverse situations, is the high social recognition they have among the general population, the acceptance of their mission to help their neighbors, and their work in research and teaching… Mexican doctors are similar to their Chinese colleagues in terms of the social prestige of their profession, which is highly valued.”
¡Saludos a todos los médicos en su día!
Diabetes rates increasing among youth
The NIH News reports that rates of Type 2 diabetes, most commonly seen in adults, are increasing among youth under age 20. About 154,000 youth under age 20 have diabetes in the United States. According to data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2006, one in 523 people younger than age 20 has diabetes. Among this group, 79 percent are aged 10 to 19 years. To help young people diagnosed with diabetes and their parents, the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) is introducing a new series of tip sheets and an online quiz specially created for teens to help them manage their disease and reduce their risk for complications. See the full story from the NIH at http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/nov2007/niddk-13.htm.
Diabetes Research Funded
The Hispanic population of South Texas has been fighting a battle against two strong opponents…diabetes and obesity. But thanks to a $5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the fight to combat these two growing health problems will be fought even harder.
Researchers from the University of Texas School of Public Health’s Brownsville regional campus plan to establish the Center of Excellence on Diabetes in Americans of Mexican Descent. The aim of this center will be to develop prevention programs for diabetes and obesity in Mexican Americans. The additional funding will help to expand a region-wide media campaign on preventing obesity and improving health.
Figures from Cameron County prove the need for just such a program.
52% of county residents are obese
32 % of county residents are overweight
1 in 5 county residents has diabetes
23% of county residents have pre-diabetes
The goal of the researchers’ work is to find programs that will work in changing behavior and making Valley residents healthier.
Disparities in Adult Awareness of Heart Attack Warning Signs
The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for 2008-02-22 focused on a public health information issue potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of patients in the US each year. A new analysis of 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) looked at data from 13 states and the District of Columbia, where the BRFSS included questions on the signs & symptoms of heart attack. The analysis found that overall, less than a third of all respondents were able to correctly identify the five warning signs of a heart attack, when given a list of closed-end (yes/no/don’t-know) questions. Those warning signs include:
- Pain and discomfort in the jaw, neck or back
- Feeling weak, lightheaded or faint
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder
- Shortness of breath
Even fewer respondents indicated that they would immediately call 9-1-1 if they suspected someone was having a heart attack. And although Texas was not one of the states studied, the analysis found notable disparities in awareness of heart-attack warning signs between Hispanic adults and non-Hispanic adults: only 14.3% of Hispanic adults knew the five warning signs and indicated they would call 9-1-1 in case of heart attack, compared with 16.2% among non-Hispanic blacks and 30.2% among non-Hispanic whites. Men also lagged significantly behind women overall (22.5% vs 30.8%) in awareness of the signs and correct steps to take.
Additional information on this study: