• Researchers Link Emphysema to Anorexia
Lack of nourishment to the body can result not only in serious heart, kidney, and liver damage, but also in lung injury, a recent Canadian study says.

Using a new method of assessing computed tomography scans, researchers analyzed the lungs of patients with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa and found that malnutrition changes the physical structure of the lung and may cause emphysema.

“These results may influence the timing of nutritional support for anorexia patients to avoid or reverse this damage to the lung,” says Harvey O. Coxson, PhD, lead author of the study, funded by a research grant from the British Columbia Lung Association. “Further, if malnutrition causes emphysema in anorexic patients, it may contribute to emphysema in smokers. If so, nutritional treatment may slow the development of emphysema in smokers.”

Anorexia nervosa, characterized by voluntary starvation, primarily affects young women, and 86% of patients report acquiring the disease before age 20. None of the 14 anorexic patients Coxson and his colleagues compared to 16 control patients had a family history of lung disease.

• Scientists Test Ebola Vaccine In Humans
Will a trial Ebola vaccine work as well in people as it has in monkeys? Scientist aim to find out.

In November, a registered nurse at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) became the first human to receive an injection of a vaccine designed to prevent the infection. Currently, no effective treatment exists for the highly infectious disease, which causes extensive internal bleeding and rapid death. The trial DNA vaccine, designed by scientists from the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, does not contain infectious material from the Ebola virus as it is synthesized using modified, inactivated genes from the virus.

Of the 27 volunteers to participate in the trial, six will receive a placebo injection and 21 will receive the investigational vaccine. Each will receive three injections over 2 months and will be followed for 1 year. If the vaccine proves efficacious, as it did 3 years ago in protecting monkeys from the lethal infection, it will be the first in a two-stage vaccination prime-boost strategy.

 Tobacco control efforts shrink smoking rate
If all 50 states and the District of Columbia had participated in a 17-state antismoking program funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), there would now be approximately 280,000 fewer smokers, according to Scott Leischow, PhD, chief of the NCI’s Tobacco Control Research Branch.

The 8-year-long program, called the American Stop Smoking Intervention Study (ASSIST), promoted smoke-free environments, countered tobacco advertising and promotion, limited youths’ access to tobacco products, and raised excise taxes to increase the price of tobacco products.

Leischow says ASSIST had a “small but significant effect on smoking prevalence” in the 17 US states that participated in the program. The states included in the ASSIST evaluation, which was published in the November 18 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, were Colorado, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Funded by the NCI, part of the National Institutes of Health, ASSIST cost a total of $128 million, or about $1,200 for each smoker who quit. Elizabeth A. Gillian, a University of California, San Diego, researcher and a coauthor of the study, told The Associated Press (AP) that the cost was “a real bargain.”

“Most smoking cessation programs will spend that [for each smoker],” Gillian told the AP. “That’s just for a few hours of a counselor’s time. When you think about what you save in health care costs, $1,200 is a real bargain.”

Inhaled corticosteroids remain “gold standard”
Patients concerned about the negative side effects related to inhaled corticosteroid use may be able to breathe a little easier thanks to a recent study.

An expert panel that reviewed 108 asthma studies related to inhaled corticosteroid therapy complications found that the drug’s benefits greatly outweigh the risks. The panel—made up of representatives from the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology—examined whether adults and children are in danger of experiencing reduced bone mineral density, cataracts, glaucoma, growth retardation, and skin thinning as a result of inhaled corticosteroid use.

The panel found no link between inhaled corticosteroid use and a reduction in bone mass density in children with asthma. Results regarding the drugs’ effects on bone mass density in adults, as well as cataracts and glaucoma, were insubstantial because they were supported only by conflicting or insufficient data. Although the panel found that inhaled corticosteroid use caused some skin thinning and easy bruising in both adults and children, dose, duration of use, and patient gender were important variables affecting overall risk. While the panel concluded that the drug therapy is associated with a decrease in short-term growth rates in children, the group says the overall effect was small and may not be sustained with long-term therapy.

Lead author Frank T. Leone, MD, MS, FCCP, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, concluded that despite side effects, inhaled corticosteroids remain the “gold standard” in asthma treatment.