Nearly 1 in 5 U.S. soldiers had a common mental illness, such as depression, panic disorder or ADHD, before enlisting in the Army, according to a new study that raises questions about the military's assessment and screening of recruits.
More than 8% of soldiers had thought about killing themselves and 1.1% had a past suicide attempt, researchers found from confidential surveys and interviews with 5,428 soldiers at U.S. Army installations.
The findings, published online in two papers in JAMA Psychiatry, point to a weakness in the recruiting process, experts said. Applicants are asked about their psychiatric histories, and those with certain disorders or past suicide attempts are generally barred from service.
"The question becomes, 'How did these guys get in the Army?'" said Ronald Kessler, a Harvard University sociologist who led one of the studies.
A third study looked at the increased suicide rate among soldiers from 2004 to 2009. The study, which tracked nearly 1 million soldiers, found that those who had been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq had an increased rate of suicide.
But it also found that the suicide rate among soldiers who had never deployed also rose steadily during that time. The study did not explain the cause.
The Pentagon did not make officials available to discuss the studies.
The three studies are the first from a massive research initiative started in 2009 by the Army and the National Institutes of Mental Health in response to the surge in suicides.
Read more from Los Angeles Times.
Doctors should disinfect their stethoscopes after each clinical examination because they can be a major source of bacterial contamination, a new study reports.
Researchers in Geneva found that the diaphragm on the end of the stethoscope had higher bacteria levels than every part of a doctor's hand, except fingertips.
Lead investigator Dr. Didier Pittet, from the University of Geneva Hospitals, said in a statement: "From infection control and patient safety perspectives, the stethoscope should be regarded as an extension of the physician's hands and be disinfected after every patient contact."
Similar results were found after doctors examined patients contaminated with MRSA.
The authors of the study, published in the March issue of Mayo Clinical Proceedings, say that doctors should disinfect stethoscopes after each use.
Pittet said, "By considering that stethoscopes are used repeatedly over the course of a day, come directly into contact with patients' skin, and may harbor several thousands of bacteria (including MRSA) collected during a previous physical examination, we consider them as potentially significant vectors of transmission."
Read more from WebMD.
U.S. medical advisers are weighing whether there is scientific justification for allowing human studies of a controversial procedure known as "three-parent in vitro fertilization (IVF)," a technique supporters say could prevent horrific genetic defects, but critics believe could lead to designer babies.
Over two days of public hearings starting on Tuesday, scientists were scheduled to present their research to outside advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency will decide whether safety concerns raised by three-parent IVF are minimal enough to allow clinical trials to begin.
The committee is focusing only on the science, not the legal or ethical issues, Celia Witten of the FDA's Office of Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies said in comments introducing the hearing.
That did not stop members of the public from focusing on ethical issues. Speakers warned the panel that use of three-parent IVF "could alter the human species," represented "an unprecedented level of experimentation on non-consenting human subjects" (meaning any children born via the technique), and "could open the door to genetically-modified children" who would be "manufactured products."
In the three-parent procedure, one man would donate sperm and all its DNA for in vitro fertilization. The would-be biological mother would contribute the egg and most of its DNA. But if the mother carries harmful genetic mutations in cellular structures called mitochondria, scientists would remove her unhealthy mitochondria and substitute those of a second woman so the baby would not inherit a potentially devastating "mitochondrial disease."
Allowing such procedures "would produce genetically modified human beings," Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Berkeley, California-based Center for Genetics and Society, a non-profit that focuses on genetic and reproductive technologies, told the committee.
If the FDA allows clinical trials, she warned, it would introduce "a regime of high-tech consumer eugenics" and represent "the first time a government body had okayed genetic changes for humans and their descendants."
Although the FDA committee is considering only scientific issues, such as whether animal research can show whether mitochondrial manipulation is safe, the agency said it is prepared to go beyond that.
Read more from Reuters.
Pregnant women have long been assured that acetaminophen can treat their aches, pains and fevers without bringing harm to the babies they carry. Now researchers say they have found a strong link between prenatal use of the medication and cases of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.
The results, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, add to growing evidence that the active ingredient in Tylenol may influence brain development in utero. But they do not provide clear answers for mothers-to-be or their doctors about whether acetaminophen is safe during pregnancy.
In analyzing data on more than 64,000 Danish women and their children, researchers found that kids whose mothers took the painkiller at any point during pregnancy were 29% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than were kids whose mothers took none. The risk increased the most — by 63% — when acetaminophen was taken during the second and third trimesters, and by 28% when used in the third trimester alone. But when taken only in the first trimester, the added risk was 9%.
The findings do not establish that prenatal exposure to acetaminophen — which is also an ingredient in Excedrin and is known in Europe and other parts of the world as paracetamol — caused the observed increase in hyperactivity disorders. But they underscore that medications are only "safe" for pregnant women until studies become sensitive enough to detect subtle problems, said Dr. Daniel Kahn, a UCLA obstetrician who was not involved in the research.
"We used to count a baby's 10 fingers and 10 toes and assume that any drug his mother took must have been safe," said Kahn, a specialist in fetal-maternal health. Now observational studies like this are capable of picking up on possible drug effects that are less obvious and harder to measure. As such research moves forward, he said, it's best to follow a "less is better" rule when it comes to taking medications during pregnancy.
"The lowest exposure is always the best, for any agent," Kahn said.
Read more from Los Angeles Times.
People who eat a vegetarian diet tend to have lower blood pressure than non-vegetarians, according to a new review of past studies.
Researchers said a vegetarian diet could be a good way for some people to treat high blood pressure without medication.
Vegetarian diets exclude meat, but may include dairy products, eggs and fish. They emphasize foods of plant origin, particularly vegetables, grains, legumes and fruits.
High blood pressure contributes to risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disorders and other health problems. For many people, the only treatment has been medication, but that means costs and possible side effects, lead author Yoko Yokoyama told Reuters Health in an email.
"If a diet change can prevent blood pressure problems or can reduce blood pressure, it would give hope to many people," Yokoyama said. She is a researcher at the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka, Japan.
"However, in order to make healthful food choices, people need guidance from scientific studies," she said. "Our analysis found that vegetarian diets lower blood pressure very effectively, and the evidence for this is now quite conclusive."
According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure readings under 120 mm Hg systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic (120/80) are considered normal. High blood pressure starts at 140/90.
The new review, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, combined results from 39 previous studies, including 32 observational studies and seven controlled trials.