HEALTH

Study: Taking probiotics during pregnancy may reduce obesity risk after birth

BY Michael Johnsen

LONDON One year after giving birth, women are less likely to have the most dangerous kind of obesity if they had been given probiotics from the first trimester of pregnancy, according to new research released Thursday by the European Association for the Study of Obesity.

“The results of our study, the first to demonstrate the impact of probiotics-supplemented dietary counselling on adiposity, were encouraging,” stated Kirsi Laitinen, a nutritionist and senior lecturer at the University of Turku in Finland, who presented her findings May 7 at the European Congress on Obesity. “The women who got the probiotics fared best. One year after childbirth, they had the lowest levels of central obesity as well as the lowest body fat percentage.

“Central obesity, where overall obesity is combined with a particularly fat belly, is considered especially unhealthy,” Laitinen said. “We found it in 25% of the women who had received the probiotics along with dietary counseling, compared with 43% in the women who received diet advice alone.”

Laitinen said further research is needed to confirm the potential role of probiotics in fighting obesity. One of the limitations of the study was that it did not control for the mothers’ weight before pregnancy, which may influence how fat they later become.

“The advantage of studying pregnant women to investigate the potential link between probiotics and obesity is that it allows us to see the effects not only in the women, but also in their children,” she said. “Particularly during pregnancy, the impacts of obesity can be immense, with the effects seen both in the mother and the child. Bacteria are passed from mother to child through the birth canal, as well as through breast milk and research indicates that early nutrition may influence the risk of obesity later in life. There is growing evidence that this approach might open a new angle on the fight against obesity, either through prevention or treatment.”

Latinen’s study was funded by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, the Academy of Finland and the Sigrid Juselius Foundation, a Finnish medical research charity.

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CDC confirms 896 swine flu cases

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The number of confirmed H1N1 cases in the United States climbed to 896 cases, with two deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday morning.

“The ongoing outbreak of novel influenza A (H1N1) continues to expand in the United States,” the agency stated. “CDC expects that more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak will occur over the coming days and weeks.”

CDC has issued guidance for health care providers on the use of antiviral medications during the current outbreak. The priority use for influenza antiviral drugs is to treat severe influenza illness and people who are at high risk of serious influenza-related conditions.

And CDC has developed a PCR diagnostic test kit to detect this novel H1N1 virus and has now distributed test kits to all states in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. This increase in testing capacity is likely to result in an increase in the number of reported confirmed cases in this country, which should provide a more accurate picture of the burden of disease in the United States.

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Diatherix Laboratories releases first clinically available swine flu test

BY Michael Johnsen

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. Diatherix Laboratories on Thursday released the first clinically available test that can definitively diagnose the current strain of H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu, in six hours or less. The test is now commercially available to hospitals, private physician practices and public health departments for the rapid confirmation of suspected H1N1 patients.

Until now, it took several days to confirm a suspected H1N1 patient due to the numerous rounds of testing needed to make a definitive diagnosis, the company stated.

“Due to the highly mutative nature of the H1N1 strains, it can be very difficult to diagnose the H1N1 virus with many of the current testing methods,” stated Jian Han, laboratory director at Diatherix and faculty investigator of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. “Because our Tem-PCR technology can test for multiple genetic targets at one time, it is the only rapid molecular test that, from a nasal swab, can detect and differentiate multiple influenza strains and nine other respiratory viruses in a single test. This advanced technology provides physicians an accurate and definitive diagnosis.”

“Since the Diatherix test allows physicians to quickly differentiate H1N1 patients from those who have similar symptoms, infected patients can be provided proper antiviral therapy in a timely manner,” commented Dennis Grimaud, Diatherix CEO. “For example, if in 24 hours or less we could verify a suspected student was not infected with the H1N1 virus, this could prevent a school district from closing.”

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