While everyone is being urged to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible, some pregnant women avoid it in the belief that it may harm their babies. A large new study confirms that they should be much more afraid of the flu than the vaccine.

Norwegian researchers studied fetal death among 113,331 women pregnant during the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009-10. About 54,065 women were unvaccinated, 31,912 were vaccinated during pregnancy and 27,354 were vaccinated after delivery. The scientists then reviewed hospitalizations and doctor visits for the flu among the women. The results were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The flu vaccine was not associated with an increased risk for fetal death, the researchers found, and getting the shot during pregnancy reduced the risk of the mother getting the flu by about 70 percent. Unvaccinated women had a 25 percent higher risk of fetal death during the pandemic than those who had had the shot. Among pregnant women with a clinical diagnosis of influenza, the risk of fetal death was nearly doubled. In all, there were 16 fetal deaths among the 2,278 women who had influenza during pregnancy.




A new study has found that an infusion of feces from a healthy person into an ailing patient's gut was significantly more effective than a traditional antibiotic treatment -- raising hopes that the unconventional approach could one day help combat obesity, food allergies and a host of other maladies.

The study, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, showed that the transplant cleared up a recurrent bacterial infection far more reliably than medication. In fact, the transplant was so successful that the research trial was ended early so that patients in the control groups could be given the remedy as well.

As a treatment for recurrent Clostridium difficile infection, an ailment that affects nearly 1 percent of patients hospitalized in the United States and plays a role in an estimated 100,000 deaths a year, the transplant had a 94 percent cure rate, three times greater than for those who took only the antibiotic vancomycin.

Proponents acknowledge that there's a PR problem. "There is still a gross factor," said Dr. Els van Nood of the University of Amsterdam Department of Internal Medicine, who led the study. "We see this mostly in younger patients. Older patients who have suffered several recurrences are only thinking, 'How can I be relieved of this CDI?'"



Eating fast food three or more times a week was linked to a higher risk of severe asthma and eczema in children, both of which can be linked to the overreaction of the body's immune system, researchers reported in the journal Thorax.

Teenagers who ate three or more weekly servings had a 39 percent increased chance of developing severe asthma, while younger children had a 27 percent higher risk, said a study of 319,000 teens in 51 countries and 181,000 children ages 6 and 7 in 31 countries. The research was led by scientists at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. Conversely, eating three or more servings of fruit a week showed a protective effect, the study found.