Flu “super antibody” may bring universal shot closer

July 26th, 2011 by Declan Nguyen | Tags: Antibody, Antibody May

Researchers from Britain and Switzerland used a new method aimed at beating “needle-in-a-haystack-type-odds” and managed to identify an antibody from a human patient which neutralizes both main groups of influenza A viruses

Although it is an early step, they said, it is an important one and in time may pave the way for the development of a universal flu vaccine

Vaccine makers currently have to change the formulations of their flu shots every year to make sure they protect against the strains of the virus circulating This is a cumbersome process which takes time and money, so the goal is come up with a universal flu vaccine that could protect people from all flu strains for decades, or even for life

Dozens of companies make influenza vaccines, including Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, AstraZeneca and CSL

“As we saw with the 2009 pandemic, a comparatively mild strain of influenza can place a significant burden on emergency services Having a universal treatment which can be given in emergency circumstances would be an invaluable asset,” said John Skehel of Britain’s National Institute for Medical Research, who worked on the study with colleagues from the privately-owned Swiss firm Humabs

Antonio Lanzavecchia, Humabs’ chief scientific officer and director of the Swiss Institute for Research in Biomedicine, said high rates of seasonal flu and the unpredictability of possible future pandemics underlined the need for better treatments that target all flu viruses

When someone is infected with the flu virus, their antibodies target the virus’ hemagglutinin protein, the researchers explained in their study, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science

Because this protein evolves so rapidly, there are currently 16 different subtypes of influenza A, which form two main groups Humans usually produce antibodies to a specific subtype, and new vaccines are made each year to match these strains

To make progress toward a universal shot that could be used every year, scientists need to identify the molecular signatures that prompt the development of broadly neutralizing antibodies

Previous research work has found antibodies that work in Group 1 influenza A viruses or against most Group 2 viruses, but not against both

This team developed a method using X-ray crystallography to test very large numbers of human plasma cells, to increase their odds of finding an antibody even if it was extremely rare

When they identified FI6, they injected it into mice and ferrets and found that it protected the animals against infection by either a Group 1 or Group 2 influenza A virus

“As the first and only antibody which targets all known subtypes of the influenza A virus, FI6 represents an important new treatment option,” Lanzavecchia said in a statement

Researchers in the United States said last year they were having some success with another possible approach to developing a universal flu shot, using a two-step system of a vaccine using DNA to “prime” the immune system and then a traditional seasonal flu shot

U.S. Minorities No Strangers to Health Ills

July 25th, 2011 by Declan Nguyen | Tags: Health, Strangers Health

Though minorities in the United States face an array of challenges, chief among them may be personal health and well-being.

African Americans, Hispanic Americans and other minority groups are more likely than whites to develop a number of chronic and deadly diseases, according to mounting evidence.

Infant mortality, obesity, diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease and communicable diseases are among the wide range of health issues for which minorities find themselves at greater risk than whites, according to the U.S.

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5 Disgustingly Bad Foods We Love

July 25th, 2011 by Abby Hitchcock |

You’re home alone. The urge strikes. You head to the secret stash in the closet. Even though you know nobody’s home, you look over both shoulders, twice.

Your heart rate quickens. You know what you’re doing is wrong, but you rationalize: “One more indulgence is all, and then I’ll get rid of it. I’ll never buy it again.”

You creep into the closet, move the pile of clothes, lift the floor board, and there it is, beckoning you forth. Nobody’s going to find out. It’s just you and the secret stash. A half-hour later, you’re sprawled out on the bed, half conscious, realizing this won’t be the last time, regardless of what you tell yourself.

You know what you did was repulsive, but you just can’t stop eating these five disgusting foods we love!

Disgusting Food No.

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Can riding thrill rides cure what ails you? Well, sort of

July 25th, 2011 by Joseph Tishler |

Medical research has shown that people’s hearts actually beat the fastest before the big hill, especially on hyped roller coasters such as The Behemoth at Canada’s Wonderland in Vaughan, Ont.

By Dr. James Aw

Next Monday in Toronto, people will begin paying $175 to go for a walk. The total distance travelled amounts to only 150 metres, but will leave participants short of breath. It’ll increase their heart rates and elevate their blood pressure. And from a medical perspective, it may be just what their bodies need.

The “walk” is the CN Tower’s EdgeWalk, a tour around the observation pod’s outer edge. Located 356

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McDonald’s Happy Meals get apples, fewer fries

July 24th, 2011 by Declan Nguyen | Tags: Happy Meals, Meals

McDonald’s — which has been taking heat from parents, consumer groups and local lawmakers over the nutritional content and marketing of Happy Meals — said it would start making the changes in September and the new Happy Meals would be available in all of its 14,000 US restaurants by the end of the first quarter of 2012

The world’s largest hamburger chain also plans a 15 percent reduction in sodium across its US menu by 2015 Beyond that, it vowed to cut sodium, added sugars, saturated fats and calories in domestic meals by 2020

“We are going to be casting our gaze more closely on portion management as well as how we can introduce more food groups such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” Cindy Goody, McDonald’s senior director of nutrition, said on a webcast

The new child’s french fry portion will be 11 ounces, down from 24 ounces previously, and equal to about 100 calories

McDonald’s currently offers apple slices with caramel dipping sauce as a Happy Meal side The new apple portion size is 12 ounces, compared with 31 ounces previously, and has no added sugar or accompanying dipping sauces

The new Happy Meals will have about 20 percent fewer calories than today’s most popular Happy Meal, executives said As a result, the new Happy Meals will be under 600 calories

Prices will not change as a result of the new composition, and toys will continue to be included in every Happy Meal, said Jan Field, McDonald’s USA president

The move from McDonald’s came after San Francisco and nearby Santa Clara County, California, passed laws that would curb free toy giveaways with kids’ meals that did not meet nutritional requirements

“Without the looming prospect of regulation in cities and states around the country, McDonald’s would not have taken as seriously the concerns that the public health community and parents have been sharing with them about this issue,” said Samantha Graff, director of legal research at Public Health Law & Policy, which drafted the models for the ordinances eventually adopted in Santa Clara County and San Francisco

Field told Reuters that the changes announced on Tuesday were in the works for more than two years and had nothing to do with the Santa Clara County and San Francisco laws

Field added that the new Happy Meals still would not meet San Francisco’s nutritional rules, which also require a vegetable serving

Still, she said it is “absolutely” possible that McDonald’s could add a vegetable to Happy Meals over the next five years

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group that advocates healthier restaurant food for children, last year sued McDonald’s to stop it from using Happy Meal toys to lure children into its restaurants

Some 1,700 health professionals and institutions also have signed an open letter to McDonald’s Chief Executive Jim Skinner calling for it to stop marketing junk food to kids

CSPI’s nutrition policy director Margo Wootan, called the latest McDonald’s changes a step in the right direction

“McDonald’s is an industry leader and Happy Meals have been copied by so many restaurants,” she said “Having them change the nutritional quality for the Happy Meal sets a standard for the industry”

Burger King Corp, DineEquity Inc’s IHOP and more than a dozen other restaurant chains earlier this month backed an industry effort to serve and promote healthier meals for children McDonald’s said it supported that effort, from the National Restaurant Association

As part of that, Burger King said it was removing french fries and soda as the default for its kids’ meals Diners now have to choose between those options or sliced apples, fat-free milk or juice before an order can be completed

While the restaurant industry is taking steps to appease its critics, it also has been backing laws designed to restrict local lawmakers’ ability to regulate restaurant marketing and other activities

Shares in McDonald’s were up 4 cents to $8816 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein, editing by Gerald E McCormick