A new family of experimental drugs can delay the onset of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis--or Lou Gehrig's disease--in mice, extending their life span by as much as 22%, according to researchers from Harvard Medical School and Columbia University.
Although the drug used in the study probably cannot be used in humans because of its toxicity, chemists should be able to develop similar drugs without the side effects, researchers reported in Friday's Science (http://www.sciencemag.org). The new drug appears to be at least as effective as the nutritional supplements creatine and coenzyme Q10 in treating ALS and is more effective than riluzole, the only drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating the disease.
But the key point, according to Dr. Leon I. Charash of the Muscular Dystrophy Assn., is that the three current chemicals and the new drug each seem to work by a different mechanism. That opens the door to using cocktails of drugs to reduce symptoms, an approach that has worked effectively in treating HIV infection. About 30,000 Americans suffer from ALS, which is usually fatal within five years of the onset of symptoms.
One Less Antibiotic? AIDS Therapy Studied
AIDS patients who bring their condition into control with cocktails of anti-HIV drugs can safely stop taking antibiotics to prevent Mycobacterium avium complex, or MAC.
MAC is one of the defining opportunistic infections of AIDS, and patients whose immune systems have been severely compromised usually take antibiotics, such as Zithromax, to prevent infections.
A team headed by Dr. Wafaa M. El-Sadr of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons studied 520 patients who had advanced HIV infections, then improved significantly with anti-HIV therapy. Half received Zithromax, half did not. The team reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine (http://www.nejm.org) that there were no MAC infections in either group, indicating that it was safe to abandon the therapy.
Behavior Problems Seen in Children of Smokers
Toddlers born to women who smoke during pregnancy are four times as likely to develop behavioral problems as those of nonsmokers, according to researchers from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
Dr. Judith Brook and her associates studied 99 toddlers and their mothers and reported in Thursday's Archives of Pediatrics & Internal Medicine (http://archpedi.ama-assn.org) that rebelliousness, risk-taking and impulsiveness were much more common among the offspring of smokers. Smoking during pregnancy has previously been linked to low birth weight, retardation and criminal behavior when the offspring become adults.
In related news, women who wish to quit smoking should pick a day in the beginning of their menstrual cycle to stop, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh.
Psychiatrist Kenneth A. Perkins reported in a recent Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology that women who quit during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle (Days 1-14) experience less severe symptoms of withdrawal and depression than those who quit during the luteal phase (from Day 15 onward).
Zoloft May Ease Stress Disorder
The antidepressant Zoloft can significantly reduce the disabling symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina.
About half the U.S. population will experience a severe traumatic event--such as threatened death or serious injury, accompanied by intense fear, helplessness or horror--in their lifetime, and 10% to 20% of those will develop the disorder. Symptoms include persistent intrusive thoughts of the event, flashbacks, overall emotional numbness and being easily startled. Women suffer it twice as frequently as men.
Dr. Kathleen Brady and her colleagues studied 187 patients who had suffered the disorder for an average of 12 years. Half received Zoloft and half a placebo. Those receiving the drug showed a significant reduction in symptoms, with women achieving the greatest benefit, the team reported in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Assn. (http://jama.ama-assn.org). Those receiving the drug also showed improvement in their quality of life and in social and occupational functioning.
Study Links Sleep Apnea and High Blood Pressure
Sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by brief pauses in breathing during sleep, may be a cause of high blood pressure, according to researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.