vitamins may help HIV patients

A daily dose of multivitamins and minerals in the early stages of HIV infection can delay progression of the disease that causes AIDS by as much as 54 percent in people who are not receiving antiretroviral drugs, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and led by a Florida International University professor of dietetics and nutrition.

Researchers from FIU and Harvard University followed 878 HIV-infected patients in Botswana and tracked the progression of their disease for two years, finding that patients who received daily supplements of vitamins B, C and E plus selenium had a lower risk of depleting the number of immune response cells in their bodies. The supplements also reduced the risk of other measures of disease progression, including AIDS symptoms and AIDS-related deaths, of which there were four in the study group.

Vitamins B, C and E are essential for maintaining a responsive immune system, and selenium may also play an important role in preventing HIV replication, said Marianna K. Baum, the FIU researcher and lead investigator.

autism may have synesthesia link

People with autism experience a more extreme version of the world than the rest of us. For more than 90 percent, sounds are louder, colors are brighter and touch can be a disturbing intrusion. The reason may be that many people with autism also have synesthesia, a condition of intertwined perception in which one sense stimulates another.

Synesthetes may see the sound of a symphony as a skein of rippling lines, for example, or a black letter "A" as bright red. People with synesthesia say their experience is not the same as imagination, but they also realize their perceptions are in their own mind. "Their experience is somewhere in between, neither imaginary not external, an extra layer in the mind," said cognitive neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who led the study.

Synesthesia has been linked to autism in a few isolated instances. But Baron-Cohen, who studies both conditions, felt that the underlying similarities warranted closer scrutiny. Scientists believe synesthesia is caused by an overabundance of connections between neurons. A similar surfeit has been proposed as the cause of autism.

People with autism were almost three times as likely to have some type of synesthesia, the researchers report online in Molecular Autism. Of the 164 adults with autism, 31, or 18.9 percent, met the criteria for synesthesia, compared with only seven (7.2 percent) of the 97 "typical" respondents. The most common types of synesthesia reported were "grapheme-color" synesthesia, in which black letters appear in color, and "sound-color," in which sounds evoke colors.

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Remote presence robots are allowing physicians to "beam" themselves into hospitals to diagnose patients and offer medical advice during emergencies. A growing number of hospitals are using telepresence robots to expand access to medical specialists, especially in rural areas where there's a shortage of doctors.

These mobile videoconferencing machines move on wheels and typically stand about 5 feet, with a large screen that projects a doctor's face. They feature cameras, microphones and speakers that allow physicians and patients to see and talk to each other.

Nearly 1,000 hospitals have installed InTouch telemedicine devices, giving them access to specialists in areas such as neurology, cardiology, neonatology, pediatrics and mental health, the company said. The company rents out the RP-VITA for $5,000 per month.

When a doctor is needed at a remote hospital location, the doctor can log on using a computer, laptop or iPad. The robot has an auto-drive function that allows it to navigate its way to the patient's room, using sensors to avoid bumping into things. Once inside the room, the doctor can see, hear and speak to the patient, and have access to clinical data and medical images. "Regardless of where the patient is located, we can be at their bedside in several minutes," said Dr. Alan Shatzel, medical director of the Mercy Telehealth Network. "No longer does distance affect a person's ability to access the best care possible."

Associated Press