HEALTH

Novel H1N1 virus linked to 1918 pandemic

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Several research groups funded by the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and National Institute of General Medical Sciences recently have put together a picture of where the novel H1N1 virus came from and how it evolved, the agency noted in a report published on its Web site Monday.

They discovered that the novel H1N1 virus is a descendent not only of swine viruses but also of the H1N1 virus that caused the 1918 pandemic, which killed more than 40 million people worldwide.

“The 1918-1919 influenza pandemic was a defining event in the history of public health,” stated NIAID director Anthony Fauci. “The legacy of that pandemic lives on in many ways, including the fact that the descendents of the 1918 virus have continued to circulate for 9 decades.”

In other work, 2 research groups — an NIGMS-funded team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — recently collaborated to test the ability of novel H1N1 to spread and cause disease. They isolated viruses from 3 patients and infected mice and ferrets. The results were published in the July 2 issue of Science.

The researchers found that compared with seasonal H1N1 flu viruses, the novel H1N1 viruses replicated to higher levels in lung tissue and were also more deadly. The scientists also found the viruses in the intestinal tracts of the ferrets, which might explain reports of gastro-intestinal problems in some infected people. However, the novel H1N1 viruses transmitted less efficiently between ferrets in respiratory droplets than seasonal H1N1.

The binding of influenza viruses to their target cells is mediated by hemagglutinin. The researchers found that the novel H1N1 hemagglutinin binds to receptors in the human respiratory tract much less effectively than other flu viruses that infect humans. However, flu viruses can mutate rapidly, so the virus could potentially improve its ability to bind, researchers cautioned.

The researchers also found that novel H1N1 doesn’t have a version of another gene called PB2 that has been associated with efficient virus transmission. However, they point out that the virus could acquire another version of the gene through mutation or by exchanging genes with other influenza viruses.

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HEALTH

Study finds patients that have dry mouth use multiple medications

BY Michael Johnsen

BALTIMORE Approximately 91% of dentists report that patients who are complaining about dry mouth are taking multiple medications, according to a nationwide member survey conducted by the Academy of General Dentistry released Thursday.

“The number of [dry mouth] xerostomia cases has increased greatly over time because people are taking more and more medications,” stated Cindy Kleiman, who presented the study. “General dentists are seeing this trend in their offices, which is why they are trying to learn all they can about this condition. The more they know, the better they will be at diagnosing and treating patients.”

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is caused by a decrease in salivary function. It affects approximately one in four Americans, placing more than 25% of people at risk for tooth decay. There are more than 400 prescription and non-prescription drugs associated with xerostomia, according to Raymond Martin, a dentist. “Anti-depressants, painkillers, diuretics, antihistamines, tranquilizers and anti-hypersensitives can all contribute to dry mouth,” he said. “People who take several of these medications are more susceptible.”

As indicated by the AGD survey, the most common symptoms reported by patients include constant thirst and difficulty eating, swallowing or speaking. Foamy or stringy saliva, irritation of the tongue, burning of the tissues inside the mouth, painful ulcerations and dentin hypersensitivity (extreme sensitivity in one or more teeth) are also dry mouth symptoms. Over time, xerostomia sufferers may experience extensive tooth decay, tooth loss or gingivitis due to the lack of saliva.

Out of the nearly 500 general dentists who responded, 89% believe prescription medications are the primary contributor to dry mouth. Aging, dehydration and salivary gland disease were also cited as major contributors. Approximately 68% of the dentists said constant thirst is the most common symptom communicated by patients; 44% said patients have difficulty eating, swallowing or speaking. More than 92% reported that patients attempt to increase salivary production by drinking water; less than 58% reported patients tried taking over-the-counter saliva substitutes, chewing sugar free gum or sucking on hard candy.

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ERSP determines Swiss Labs reliable support for dietary supplement claims

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program on Thursday determined that Swiss Labs provided reliable support for certain claims around the company’s Arthri-Zen Relief dietary supplement, but recommended the marketer modify certain claims.

ERSP examined claims in broadcast and online advertising that included:

  • “Imagine 24-HOUR JOINT RELIEF!”;
  • “Arthri-Zen eases: joint discomfort; muscle and tissue aches; sleepless nights; stiffness and swelling”;
  • “Arthri-Zen Relief is clinically proven effective in the relief of joint and muscle discomfort.”;
  • “…And natural products like Glucosamine and Chondroitin just don’t work.”; and
  • “With its unique delivery system Arthri-Zen Relief works quickly and effectively. You’ll feel a difference immediately.”

Following its review, ERSP determined that the marketer’s clinical study provided adequate support for the marketer’s claims that the product could reduce joint and muscle discomfort when used as directed. However, given that a single study was performed, ERSP recommended that the marketer discontinue any reference to “clinical studies.”

ERSP noted in its decision that the marketer’s study indicated that 53% of the trial subjects who received the Arthri-Zen formulation experienced significantly less pain by the fourth day of the trial. ERSP noted that relief following four days of treatment is not consistent with consumers’ expectations of a product that advertises “immediate” relief. The marketer asserted that it would modify the claim, “immediate relief.”

ERSP further noted that that the marketer’s “24-HOUR JOINT RELIEF” claim could be interpreted by consumers as a reference to a systematic release of the product’s primary ingredients throughout the day. ERSP recommended that the marketer modify the context of the claim to clarify for consumers its intended message that users of the product can experience relief for up to 24 hours in between dosages.

Further, ERSP determined that, based upon the evidence presented by Swiss Labs it is inaccurate to categorically conclude that glucosamine and chondroitin provide no therapeutic benefits and noted that the advertiser has asserted it will voluntarily discontinue comparative claims involving glucosamine and chondroitin. ERSP recommended the marketer not disseminate the same or similar claims in future advertising for Arthri-Zen Relief.

“While we believe that all of our advertising is fully substantiated, we have decided to accept ERSP’s recommendations in its entirety and will make the minor recommended modifications to our advertising,” Swiss Labs stated. “Swiss Labs appreciates the insight and expertise provided by this process and will take this guidance into consideration in future advertising.”

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