Review Category : Health

Australian Researchers Studying Whether Spider Venom Can Help Create New Painkillers

iStock/Thinkstock(QUEENSLAND, Australia) — Researchers in Australia believe that elements of spider toxins could be used to create new painkilling drugs.

A study recently published in the British Journal of Pharmacology notes that chronic pain is a “serious worldwide health issue,” and that current painkillers have limited efficacy and are limited in the doses they can be taken in due to potential side effects. Some spider venoms, however, contain elements that block a specific channel that transmits pain.

The study indicates that about 40 percent of the 205 spider venoms screened contain at least one element that was deemed an inhibitor of hNav 1.7, a sodium channel which, when mutated in a particular way, can make humans indifferent to pain.

“We’ve got a massive library of different venoms from different spider species and we’re branching out into other arachnids: scorpions, centipedes and even assassin bugs,” Dr. Jennifer Smith, a research officer at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience told the Wall Street Journal.

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Tennessee Toddler Born Without Feet Gets Puppy Without a Paw

Heidi Heilbrunn/Greenville News(GREENVILLE, S.C.) — Sapphyre Johnson was born a healthy child in Greenville, South Carolina, except for missing some essential features — her feet, fingers and toes.

Since she was three months old, Sapphyre, 3, has been a patient at Shriner’s Hospital for Children, where her mother, Ashley Johnson, said she’s had multiple surgeries to be fitted for prosthetic feet. But for her last visit, Johnson told ABC News, Sapphyre got to leave the hospital with much more than new prosthetics.

“It was two weeks ago when were told that an owner had contacted the hospital about a puppy who was missing one front paw,” said Johnson. “She wanted him to grow up with a child who had similar circumstances.”

After showing Sapphyre a photo of the puppy, Johnson said her toddler fell in love.

“Sapphyre immediately noticed that he was missing a paw,” she said. “She said, ‘He has a foot like mine.'”

The dog’s breeder, Karen Riddle, said that the 9-week-old White German Shepard was born in a litter of nine puppies and was the only one missing a paw.

For that very reason, Riddle said she decided to name him Lt. Dan, after the character from the popular film Forrest Gump who lost both his legs.

“The movie is a heartwarming, loving story, so I said, ‘You’re just like Lt. Dan. It just suited his personality,” she said.

Because of Lt. Dan’s calm demeanor, Riddle coordinated with Shriner’s to hand him off to Sapphyre as a therapy dog. Sapphyre and Lt. Dan went home together Monday.

“It was awesome yesterday,” Riddle said. “We said, ‘Sapphyre show him your feet’ and, oh boy, she threw off her prosthetics and her socks and said, ‘Look!’ Then Lt. Dan put his paw up at the exact same time.”

Although they’ve only been pals for 24 hours, Johnson said Sapphyre and Lt. Dan make the perfect pair.

“He follows her every step she takes, everywhere she goes,” said Johnson. “It’s like they’ve known each other forever.

“We always want Sapphyre to know that being different is not bad,” she added. “People, even pets, no one is exactly the same. That would be boring. I think it’s good for her to see that.”

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5.3M Hens to Be Killed to Stem Bird Flu Outbreak: What You Need to Know

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — In an effort to stop an outbreak of bird flu that could devastate Iowa’s poultry population, state health officials announced they will destroy up to 5.3 million hens to keep the virus from spreading.

The bird flu strain H2N2 has been reported in poultry farms in at least 12 states. Easily spread via migrating birds, the virus has not infected any humans but can quickly decimate a flock in just a few days.

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker called in National Guard troops to help disinfect vehicles after the virus was found in three turkey flocks.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert from Vanderbilt Medical Center, said the goal is to interrupt the transmission of the virus so it doesn’t spread further.

“[Officials] are responding by killing 5 million [egg] layer hens,” Schaffner said of Monday’s announcement. “They want to interrupt transmission to the other 45 million hens in Iowa. This is similar to what’s been done on a large scale in Hong Kong.”

While this current strain has not yet infected any humans, Schaffner said researchers are wary of bird flu since if it mutates, the disease can potentially lead to a global pandemic. A person infected with bird flu will have similar symptoms to the seasonal flu but will likely be at a higher risk for having complications or dying from the disease, Schaffner noted.

“At rare times this bird flu virus picks up genetic capacity to be transmitted from person to person, that’s when you get a big new pandemic,” said Schaffner, who stressed the virus is not a problem for consumers who are worried about picking up eggs and poultry at the grocery store.

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‘Skinny Mom’ Debuts Toned Abs a Week After Giving Birth

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Super fit model Sarah Stage spent nine months showing off her insanely toned pregnancy body on Instagram. Less than a week after giving birth, pictures show she’s already bouncing back.

“4 days post baby, total pregnancy weight gain was 28 pounds. I’m excited to resume my workouts in 5 weeks!” the California woman wrote next to an Instagram picture of herself in lingerie just four days after giving birth. Her abs, especially, looked sculpted and defined.

A photo posted by Sara (@sara_stage) on Apr 19, 2015 at 9:36pm PDT

Her 1.3 million Instagram followers are amazed.

“Sara let me tell you have my full respect!!! You have showed the world that you can still be fit while pregnant…,”one follower wrote.

“People should learn from u,” another wrote.

Stage did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News medical contributor and a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist, said she predicted Stage’s body would snap back into shape very quickly.

“She was in excellent shape to start,” Ashton said. “She exercised before her pregnancy and all throughout her pregnancy and she ate well.”

At 8 pounds, 7 ounces, Stage’s son, James Hunter, was no lightweight. But Ashton said because Stage had gained the appropriate amount of weight, she could see her belly would flatten out quickly. It also helped that she is still young and this is her first baby, Ashton added.

And should Stage choose to have another baby, Ashton said she saw no reason why she won’t look just as good the second time around.

“If she does things the way she’s doing them now, there’s an excellent chance things will turn out exactly the same way,” Ashton said.

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Cancer Group Clarifies Confusing Mammography Recommendations

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Women between the ages of 40 to 49 should get a mammography to screen for breast cancer if they’ve weighed the risks and benefits, the United States Preventative Services Task Force said in a statement.

“The group’s top level recommendations that women should begin mammogram testing at age 50 and only schedule them every two years until about age 74 have not changed,” Dr. Michael LeFevre, the immediate past chairman of the task force told ABC News. “We’ve also said in the past that the decision to start screening mammography in women prior to age 50 years should be an individual one, he added.

The group wanted to clarify their position on younger women and mammography, which he admitted might be confusing for some, said LeFevre.

“Younger women should work with their doctors to balance the pros and cons of mammography and make a determination that best fits their situation and values,” LeFevre said. “There is some small benefit but there is also some risk.”

The Task Force recommendations are based on the studies that showed giving mammograms to women every other year from ages 50 to 69 reduces breast cancer deaths by 16.5 percent over a lifetime. If screening starts at age 40 and continues every other year, there’s a 19.5 percent lifetime reduction in deaths from breast cancer. That 3 percent difference roughly translates to saving one woman’s life for every 1,000 who are screened.

At the same time screening younger women also results in a larger number of false positive tests and unnecessary procedures.

A study performed by the University of California at San Francisco found that about half of women who submit to a decade of annual mammograms will be given the harrowing news that their tests are positive when they are actually cancer-free. The women who receive false-positive results will then be subjected to further testing. One in 12 of them will undergo invasive biopsy surgery that carries the risk of complication from anesthesia, scarring and infection.

Getting the screening recommendations right is important. A new study by the National Cancer Institute projects the estimated number of women diagnosed with breast cancer to rise significantly in the coming years.

“The number of cases will be 50 percent higher in 2030 than they were in 2011,” Dr. Philip Rosenberg, one of the study’s lead authors.

Rosenberg said that the increase from 283,000 cases of breast cancer to about 440,000 cases per year in the U.S. will be fueled by a larger and older population as well as an increased rate of certain types of cancers, including some that have a greater chance of being picked up on mammography.

While the study makes no recommendations on screenings, Rosenberg said that his team’s purpose was to come up with a snapshot of what breast cancer might look like in the future.

“We hope this information will be used by the experts in treatment so they chart a better course in the coming years,” he said.

This week’s annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Philadelphia highlights the latest, most exciting discoveries in every area of cancer research. Many of the country’s top cancer investigators attending the conference will be tweeting with the ABC News health team Tuesday at 1 p.m., ET to share their latest insights and discoveries.

Join the chat to learn and tune into our first ever live stream on Periscope. Look for it under the title “Breakthroughs in Cancer Research.”

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First Seizure? Bring on the Medication

Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Around 150,000 Americans have their first unprovoked seizure each year.

Traditionally, a first seizure would be met with a “wait and see” approach before starting a course of anti-seizure drugs.

Now, new guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology and the American Epilepsy Society published in the journal Neurology recommend initiating medical treatment early with anti-epileptic medication.

The groups determined, after reviewing the available evidence, that beginning a medication immediately decreases the risk of having another seizure.

Without medication, researchers say there is up to a 45 percent chance of having another seizure within two years.

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The Curse of ‘Oversharenting': Parents, Friends Squabble over Kid Updates on Social Media

ABC News(NEW YORK) – Seems like everyone’s social media feeds are full of those parents who overshare, capturing their child’s every meal, every outfit, every moment, from bath time to spit-up to #unfiltered potty pics.

Nothing seems off-limits for those who are “oversharenting.”

But now one new mom is paying the price for what one friend called a “running commentary” of her young daughter’s life.

“I’ve posted a lot of pictures of her hitting milestones, and just when she wears cute outfits,” Jade Ruthven said.

Ruthven didn’t give all the photos she was sharing a second thought, until she received a letter in the mail that slammed her for oversharing and told her to stop posting photos and updates. “She crawls off the mat, we don’t care,” and “She’s 6 months old, big deal,” are just some of what the letter said.

“I was shocked,” Ruthven said. “I felt like I was being bullied and mommy-shamed and I second-guessed myself and thought, ‘am I being a bad mom for posting all these pictures of my daughter on Facebook?’”

Ruthven is not alone. Social media is flooded with proud parent photos, marking milestones online with hastags like #pottytraining and #firststeps.

Author and mommy blogger Sarah Maizes said her bathtub babies are now temperamental teenagers, and she now regrets some of the posts she made about her children years ago. As a mommy blogger, Maizes said she wrote about things her kids did when they were little, and then when they got to middle school and started Googling themselves, her kids were mortified by what they found.

Now, Maizes said she doesn’t share as much about her kids’ daily lives as she used to, and she has her kids approve everything she posts online.

Mommy blogger and clinical psychologist Samantha Rodin said this is just one way social media is transforming parenting.

“It’s a really easy way to stay connected with people and see their kids grow up and to see what they’re doing,” Rodin said. “People don’t have that much time in their day between working, parenting, and marriage whatever, to stay in constant contact with friends.”

She posts photos of her three kids daily to thousands of followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“I don’t think very deeply before I post anything just as long it’s just a cute picture of my child. I figure I could just upload it,” Rodin said. “Even if someone posts 25 pictures a day of their kids I don’t think it’s bad. If nobody wants to see it they don’t have to see it.”

Ericka Sóuter, an editor in the news division of CafeMom, a social networking website for mothers, said sharing those little moments can make mothers feel proud, and can provide insight into what parenting actually looks like.

“It’s this messy, fun crazy world,” she said. “Embrace your crazy because every mom will tell you it’s crazy.”

But Blair Koenig said she doesn’t want to see it and she shouldn’t have to.

“I have seen everything you can imagine,” Koenig said. “Pictorials of child birth, like 25 pictures of a C-section and sometimes people will eat their placenta and sometimes they will post videos or photos.”

The anti-oversharenting crusader started her blog, “STFU, Parents,” after she got fed up with her friends’ constant updates.

“My feed was like 13 updates in a single day of a baby’s fever going up or down or having to change the baby and having to feed the baby, and it just seemed like a lot of information that was not really necessary,” Koenig said.

“A lot of it stems from I think from narcissism, some of it also stems from wanting to commiserate,” she added.

Koenig said there is a fine line between keeping your close friends and family up-to-date on your little one, and going too far.

“I don’t really think everybody needs to know about a child using the bathroom, but at the same time if you want to post about it maybe just sort of hold the reins,” she said.

As for Jade Ruthven, her baby updates are still going strong. Parents from across the globe have sent her messages of support since she first talked about the letter.

“I went back on the computer and was posting more, more pictures than ever,” she said. “Little did I know that it would go all around the world.”

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Blue Bell Issues Nationwide Recall of All Products

Marzia Giacobbe/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Blue Bell Ice Cream said late Monday it is voluntarily recalling all of its products nationwide over fears of Listeria contamination.

The latest recall includes all of the company’s ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks. The announcement comes after the company found that Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half-gallons produced on March 17 and March 27 contained the bacteria.

“We’re committed to doing the 100 percent right thing, and the best way to do that is to take all of our products off the market until we can be confident that they are all safe,” said Paul Kruse, Blue Bell CEO and president, in a statement posted on the company’s website. “We are heartbroken about this situation and apologize to all of our loyal Blue Bell fans and customers. Our entire history has been about making the very best and highest quality ice cream and we intend to fix this problem. We want enjoying our ice cream to be a source of joy and pleasure, never a cause for concern, so we are committed to getting this right.”

After eating ice cream products from Blue Bell Creamery at a hospital in Wichita, Kansas, between January 2014 and January 2015, five people were sickened. Three of the patients who were sickened at the Wichita hospital later died, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced in March.

Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

The company is implementing a procedure called “test and hold” for all products made at all of its manufacturing facilities, meaning that all products will be tested first and held for release to the market only after the tests show they are safe.

The Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, manufacturing facility will remain closed as Blue Bell continues to investigate.

A full list of the states the products were distributed to is available on Blue Bell’s website.

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Are Your Pets Making You Sick?

Santiaga/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Cuddling with a puppy or cozying up to a kitty has health benefits, but a new study suggests that household pets can also be sources of infection.

Young children, elderly people or pregnant women might well give a thought to potentially dangerous bacterial infections, including C. difficile and Campylobacter jejuni, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

If your pet’s a reptile, amphibian, exotic animal or rodent, researchers say think even harder, as the group poses the greatest risk to humans and can transmit diseases through contaminated surfaces.

Researchers say that reptiles and amphibians are responsible for one in 10 cases of sporadic Salmonella infections in patients younger than 21.

Physicians do not regularly ask about pet contact or discuss the risks of pet-transmitted diseases, and the study highlights the need for common-sense steps: proper hand washing, discouraging face licking, avoiding exotic animals, wearing protective gear when cleaning pet habitats, and regularly scheduling veterinary visits for pets.

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New Drug Shows Promise Against Advanced Melanoma

Manuel Faba Ortega/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -– Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, takes about 10,000 lives per year, and the median survival time for those diagnosed with its most severe form is a year.

Now, a new medication called Keytruda may help cut down those numbers.

In a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine involving those with advanced melanoma that compared Keytruda to the drug Yervoy, a commonly used medication for the disease, those taking Keytruda had a 37-percent higher chance of being alive after 12 months.

In addition to an improved survival rate, the patients taking this new drug also had fewer side effects, according to researchers.

Since the trial has lasted less than a year, researchers say it’s unknown if it will affect the survival rates for less severe forms, which can be much higher, in the same way.

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