Category Archives: Medical researches

Allergy Immunotherapy Helps Control Asthma

Oral allergy immunotherapy — in the form of drops or tablets — is effective at reducing asthma symptoms and the need for asthma medications in children who have what’s known as allergic asthma, a new study finds.

The findings bolster hopes that these oral medications might someday replace injections, never a hit with kids.

Commonly known as allergy shots in the United States, allergy immunotherapy works in a manner similar to vaccines — essentially re-educating the body’s immune system so that it doesn’t overreact to harmless substances such as pollen or dust mites. While this therapy can be effective, it’s currently only available via injections in the United States, and usually involves at least one to two shots a week for three to six months, making it a less-than-popular alternative with children.

Oral immunotherapy is available in Europe, but has yet to gain Food and Drug Administration approval in the United States.

The new study reviewed nine studies that looked at the use of so-called sublingual (oral) immunotherapy in children with asthma. A total of 441 kids between the ages of 3 and 18 who had been diagnosed with allergic asthma were included in the studies. Allergic asthma means that asthma symptoms can be triggered by exposure to an allergen, such as dust mites, pollen or mold.

Two hundred and thirty-two children received oral immunotherapy and the remaining 209 got a placebo.

The dosing schedule varied depending on the study and whether drops or tablets were used. Canonica said that during the maintenance phase of immunotherapy, drops or tablets were given three times a week. The average duration of the studies was 12 months. The most common allergen treated was dust mites. Grass mix and pollen were also included in one study each.

The researchers found that those taking sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) had significantly fewer symptoms and needed to take less asthma medication. Not enough of the studies included measurements of lung function for the new study to assess whether SLIT affects lung function significantly.

Additionally, SLIT appeared to be better tolerated than allergy shots. The chances of a severe reaction are less with oral immunotherapy than with the injected type, according to an allergist/immunologist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Drinking alcohol may boost blood pressure

Drinking alcohol, even moderate amounts, may boost blood pressure more than previously thought.

People with a genetic mutation that makes it difficult to consume alcohol had significantly lower blood pressure than regular or heavy drinkers, the researchers found.

People without the mutation who had about 3 drinks per day had “strikingly” higher blood pressure than people with the genetic change who tended to drink only small amounts or nothing at all.

The researchers said there was more than a two-fold risk for high blood pressure among drinkers and a 70 percent increased risk for “quite modest” drinkers compared to people with the genetic mutation.

High blood pressure, which affects more than a billion adults worldwide, can lead to stroke, heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure.

Previous studies have linked heavy drinking with high blood pressure while others have suggested that moderate alcohol intake provides health benefits such as lower cholesterol.

The genetic mutation is common in some Asian populations and discourages drinking because alcohol triggers facial flushing, nausea, drowsiness, headache and other unpleasant symptoms.

Link between carbohydrate intake and esophageal cancer

There may be a link between rising rates of carbohydrate intake and obesity and the increasing number of esophageal cancer cases in the United States, a new study says.

Researchers noted that cases of esophageal cancer increased from 300,000 in 1973 to 2.1 million in 2001, which closely mirrors increases in carbohydrate intake and obesity over the same time.

Obesity is a major risk factor for many types of cancer, and a diet high in calories from refined carbohydrates is a common contributor to obesity, the researchers noted. They also said no other studied nutrients were found to correlate with esophageal cancer rates.

The causes of esophageal cancer are largely unknown, and despite recent advances, patients with this type of cancer have a poor prognosis. The five-year survival rate is less than 20 percent.

If antidepressant doesn’t work For depressed teen

If a depressed teen doesn’t respond to treatment with commonly prescribed antidepressants the first time around, new research suggests there’s still hope.

Switching medications and adding behavioral talk therapy turned out to be the most effective alternative, although just switching medications also helped many individuals.

“On average, these kids were ill for two years and no matter which treatment they got, at least 40 percent responded within 12 weeks,” said study author. “I really think the take-home message to families is if you don’t respond to the first treatment, don’t give up.”

The issue of whether depressed or troubled children should even take antidepressants has been at the center of an intense public debate in recent years.

Some research has turned up evidence that kids on antidepressants have a higher rate of suicide ideation, meaning suicidal thoughts and behavior.

Heeding this data, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2004 asked manufacturers of antidepressants to add a black-box warning to their labels warning about the increased suicide risk.

Recent research, however, has found that the benefits of antidepressants outweigh the risks for children and teens under the age of 19.

About 60 percent of adolescents with depression respond to treatment with antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Guidelines recommend prescribing SSRI medications, psychotherapy or both as a first-line treatment for this younger population. (The only SSRI approved by the FDA for use in pediatric patients is Prozac, but others are prescribed on an off-label basis).

Unfortunately, 40 percent do not respond to the first therapy they try, and there’s little guidance on what to do next.

There’s just not that much research in kids, period

For this latest study, the researchers chose 334 patients aged 12 to 18 years, all of whom had major depressive disorder and had not responded to two months of SSRI treatment. They were randomly selected to receive one of four treatment possibilities for 12 weeks: a second, different SSRI; a different SSRI plus cognitive behavioral therapy; Effexor (a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, or SNRI); or Effexor plus cognitive behavioral therapy.

While the drugs were taken for 12 weeks; therapy lasted nine sessions.

There was a 54.8 percent response rate among those teens who switched to talk therapy plus either medication, compared to 40.5 percent for a medication switch alone.

There was no difference in response rates between Effexor and a second SSRI. However, there was a greater increase in blood pressure and pulse and more frequent skin problems with Effexor than the other drugs.

Viral infections associated with Pregnancy Complications

Exposure to viral infection, especially herpes viruses, may be associated with high blood pressure during pregnancy and preterm birth, Australian researchers report.

The findingsĀ  are a major advance in learning more about the cause of hypertension in pregnancy, according to the authors of the study

Over 10 years, researchers from Adelaide’s Women & Children’s Hospital and the University of Adelaide detected the presence of viral nucleic acid in heel-prick blood samples from 1,326 newborns more than 400 of whom were diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

High blood pressure occurs in up to 10 percent of first pregnancies in the United States and other developed nations. It’s a common cause of death among pregnant women in developing countries.

Previously, the Adelaide group identified a link between viral infection in pregnancy, genetic mutations in genes controlling inflammatory and blood clotting processes, and the development of cerebral palsy. They also found an association between several hereditary gene mutations and changes in inflammatory proteins that may cause dysfunction and constriction of blood vessels in the placenta and brain, resulting in increased blood pressure during pregnancy.