Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
The four to six percent of US children who experience food allergies are facing ever-rising costs, amounting to an average of more than $4,000 per child each year. More from CNN.com:
Why so many kids are experiencing allergies to common food items still isn’t clear, although experts suspect that some of the trend can be attributed to improved public health and sanitation efforts that may have made us too clean to build strong enough immunity to common allergens found in food and the environment. Kids not eating things like nuts and shellfish at an earlier age may also contribute to the rise in food allergies.
Regardless of how the shift began, however, researchers reporting in the journal JAMA Pediatrics say that the economic cost of food allergies is also reaching a peak, with families like the Cunninghams spending an estimated $25 billion per year, or about $4,184 per child. About $4.3 billion of those costs involve direct medical fees such as medications and emergency treatments for allergic reactions, with $20.5 billion going to additional yearly costs to families.
While other studies have investigated the economic toll of food allergies, few have studied in detail how these costs affect a family’s finances.
Image: Peanut allergies, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013
The first large-scale study to link autism with autoimmunity has been published in the journal Molecular Biology. The study found that as many as 1 in 10 mothers of autistic children have antibodies in their bloodstream that react with proteins in the brains of their developing fetuses. More from ScienceDaily.com:
…While the blood-brain barrier in the adult women prevents them from being harmed by the antibodies, that same filter in the fetuses is not well-developed enough and so may allow the “anti-brain” antibodies to pass through to the babies’ brains, possibly causing autism.
The study was led by Dr. Betty Diamond, head of the Center for Autoimmune and Musculoskeletal Disorders at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Long Island, New York, who said the very large sample size “gives a clearer impression of the prevalence of these antibodies.”
“We at AARDA applaud Dr. Diamond’s research into an area that concerns all parents,” said Virginia T. Ladd, President of American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (AARDA).
According to AARDA, in healthy people, when a foreign invader, such as a virus or bacteria, enters the body, the immune system produces antibodies to attack those foreign substances. In people with autoimmunity, the immune system mistakenly recognizes the body’s own healthy tissues and organs as foreign invaders and produces antibodies to attack them. These auto-antibodies — or antibodies produced against the self — then cause disease. The disease that results depends upon which tissues and/or organs the antibodies are attacking.
Some 50 million Americans live and cope with autoimmune disease (AD), 75 percent of whom are women.
Image: Pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
Women who get poor sleep during pregnancy–either not enough time asleep or restless sleep–may disrupt the immune system and lead to lower birth weight and other complications, a new study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine has found. More from ScienceDaily.com:
Women with depression also are more likely than non-depressed women to suffer from disturbed sleep and to experience immune system disruption and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
“Our results highlight the importance of identifying sleep problems in early pregnancy, especially in women experiencing depression, since sleep is a modifiable behavior,” said Michele Okun, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine and lead author of the report. “The earlier that sleep problems are identified, the sooner physicians can work with pregnant women to implement solutions.”
Adequate and high-quality sleep, both in pregnant and non-pregnant women as well as men, is essential for a healthy immune system. Pregnancy often is associated with changes in sleep patterns, including shortened sleep, insomnia symptoms and poor sleep quality. These disturbances can exacerbate the body’s inflammatory responses and cause an overproduction of cytokines, which act as signal molecules that communicate among immune cells.
“There is a dynamic relationship between sleep and immunity, and this study is the first to examine this relationship during pregnancy as opposed to postpartum,” added Dr. Okun.
While cytokines are important for numerous pregnancy-related processes, excess cytokines can attack and destroy healthy cells and cause destruction of tissue in pregnant women, thereby inhibiting the ability to ward off disease. For expectant mothers, excess cytokines also can disrupt spinal arteries leading to the placenta, cause vascular disease, lead to depression and cause pre-term birth.
Image: Sleeping pregnant woman, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 17th, 2013
The crowded schedule of vaccines recommended for babies, sometimes requiring five shots in a single doctor’s visit, is safe, a new report from the Institute of Medicine has found. The report, researchers say, should comfort parents who worry that the repeat shots could overload babies’ fragile immune systems. More from MSNBC.com:
“Our committee found no evidence that the childhood immunization schedule is not safe,” Ada Sue Hinshaw, Ph.D, dean of the graduate school of nursing at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and chair of the committee, told reporters in a conference call.
The Institute, one of the independent National Academies of Science, was asked to look at studies involving not the vaccines themselves, which have been shown numerous times to be safe, but at the schedule for their delivery.
Babies are vaccinated against diphtheria and tetanus, whooping cough and measles, chickenpox and bugs that cause meningitis, pneumonia and diarrhea. Some shots have to be given multiple times over a period of months to fully protect a child, and the schedule is based on when a child becomes vulnerable to infections, as well as when their immune system is developed enough to respond the vaccines.
“A number of concerned parents say the schedule is too ‘crowded’ and have requested flexibility, such as delaying one or more immunizations or having fewer shots per visit,” the committee says in its report.
“Some parents have rejected the vaccines outright, arguing that the potential harm of their child suffering a side effect from the vaccine outweighs the well-documented benefits of immunizations preventing serious disease. Other parents delay or decline immunizations due to worries that family history, the child’s premature birth, or an underlying medical condition may make them more vulnerable to complications. Some simply distrust the federal government’s decisions about the safety and benefits of childhood immunizations.”
And delaying or refusing vaccination can cause harm — not only to the children who are not fully vaccinated, but to those around them, the committee noted. “States with policies that make it easy to exempt children from immunizations were associated with a 90 percent higher incidence of whooping cough in 2011,” the report says.
Image: Baby getting vaccine, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
The family of 7-year-old Emma Whitehead are rejoicing after an experimental cancer treatment helped the girl beat leukemia that was threatening to take her life after two post-chemotherapy relapses. More from The New York Times:
“Desperate to save her, her parents sought an experimental treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one that had never before been tried in a child, or in anyone with the type of leukemia Emma had. The experiment, in April, used a disabled form of the virus that causes AIDS to reprogram Emma’s immune system genetically to kill cancer cells.
The treatment very nearly killed her. But she emerged from it cancer-free, and about seven months later is still in complete remission. She is the first child and one of the first humans ever in whom new techniques have achieved a long-sought goal — giving a patient’s own immune system the lasting ability to fight cancer.
Emma had been ill with acute lymphoblastic leukemia since 2010, when she was 5, said her parents, Kari and Tom. She is their only child.
She is among just a dozen patients with advanced leukemia to have received the experimental treatment, which was developed at the University of Pennsylvania. Similar approaches are also being tried at other centers, including the National Cancer Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
“Our goal is to have a cure, but we can’t say that word,” said Dr. Carl June, who leads the research team at the University of Pennsylvania. He hopes the new treatment will eventually replace bone-marrow transplantation, an even more arduous, risky and expensive procedure that is now the last hope when other treatments fail in leukemia and related diseases.”
Image: Laboratory technician, via Shutterstock
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