Melatonin Treatment for Asthma Shows Mixed Results
A recent study by Francineide L. Campos and researchers from the Universidade Federal do Ceará, Fortaleza, Brazil, concluded that melatonin might improve sleep in patients with asthma. Among the 22 female asthma patients who were studied, the 12 who took melatonin showed improved sleep quality as compared to the 10 who took a placebo. Previous studies record opposing conclusions on the effects of melatonin on asthma. According to a study published in the September 2004 issue of Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the hormone melatonin may be a factor in the worsening of nocturnal asthma. Researchers found that patients with nocturnal asthma have melatonin levels that are higher than those of healthy subjects and that higher melatonin levels are associated with more severe nocturnal worsening of asthma.

Radon Increases Risk of Lung Cancer
The effects of natural radon gas escaping the earth’s surface into homes is causing 9% of all deaths from lung cancer across Europe, and smokers are most at risk, according to a recent study led by Sarah Darby, professor of medical statistics, Clinical Trial Service Unit, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, UK. In one of the largest studies of its kind, Darby and the team of researchers found that radon accounted for 20,000 deaths from lung cancer in Europe each year, equating to 9% of lung cancer deaths and 2% of all cancer deaths across Europe. The risk of radon-induced lung cancer increased proportionally to how much radon people were exposed to. Action can be taken to reduce radon exposure in the home, the authors say. At moderate cost, increasing underfloor ventilation would reduce high radon concentrations in existing homes. As new homes are constructed, a radon-proof barrier installed at ground level would be an even lower cost, they conclude.

Antibiotic stops development of S. Pneumoniae
Scientists have recently discovered a way to stop the development of an organism that causes this common form of pneumonia, leading the way for the development of antibiotics that could eventually eliminate the disease. “Streptococcus pneumoniae places an enormous burden on the welfare of humanity,” says Thomas Leyh, PhD, a professor of biochemistry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and lead author of the paper. “Worldwide, the organism takes the lives of some 3,700 people daily, the majority of whom are children below the age of five.” Decades of antibiotic use have produced drug-resistant strains of S. pneumoniae that are capable of evading even the so-called last-line-of-defense antibiotics, such as vancomycin. In the United States alone, the roughly 7 million annual cases of inner ear infections caused by this organism saddle the US health care system with an estimated $5 billion burden, Leyh says. The virulence of S. pneumoniae requires a properly functioning channel called the isoprenoid biosynthetic pathway. Leyh and his colleagues have discovered that an intermediate in the pathway—diphosphomevalonate, or DPM—can inhibit the first enzyme, effectively shutting down the whole process. “If you switch this pathway off, the organism is in big trouble,” Leyh says. Without this channel, the normally pathogenic S. pneumoniae is unable to survive in mouse lungs, and its virulence is severely attenuated. “Remarkably, the human enzyme is not influenced by the inhibitor,” Leyh says. This means that S. pneumoniae in human lungs or blood should be inhibited without any negative effect on human metabolism. The researchers plan to use DPM as a template for developing novel antibiotics to cure pneumonia and other streptococcal diseases, such as meningitis. “We consider DPM a very powerful lead compound,” Leyh continues. “It’s about as compelling as it can be at this stage.” Leyh’s laboratory is currently developing and testing five compounds based on the DPM template for their potential as new antibiotics. The study appeared in the December 28, 2004, issue of Biochemistry.

Loud Music May Cause Lung Collapse
A recent report in the medical journal Thorax indicated that loud music might play a role in the occurrence of pneumothorax, commonly referred to as spontaneous lung collapse. The study cites five episodes in four patients in which loud music caused an air pressure change that led to spontaneous lung collapse. In the report, lead author of the study, Marc Noppen, MD, suggested that repetitive pressure changes in the high energy/low frequency range of loud bass is likely to be responsible for the occurrence of pneumothorax. The study also noted that physicians and specialists should consider loud music as a contributing factor in patients with a history of spontaneous pneumothorax.

Solucient, AARC Establish Uniform Measurement
Solucient® and the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) have entered into an agreement to integrate time standards from the AARC Uniform Reporting Manual for Acute Care Hospitals, fourth edition (URM) into Solucient’s ACTION O-I™ program in order to facilitate delivery of safe, cost-effective respiratory services. The goal of this partnership is to establish a uniform methodology for standardizing reporting and benchmarking of respiratory services.