Science briefs

  • Updated: February 8, 2014 - 4:23 PM

Shorewood, MN, Tuesday, January 13, 2004 -- Cub Foods in Shorewood, MN -- peanuts ORG XMIT: MIN2013101117315671

peanut tolerance Boosted in kids

Gradual exposure to peanut protein powder over six months helped more than half of children with peanut allergies tolerate the equivalent of about 10 peanuts per day. The clinical trial also found that the majority of kids who tested the experimental therapy — which must be done with a doctor’s supervision and not at home on one’s own — were able to eat the equivalent of about five peanuts each day. “The families involved in this study say that it has changed their lives dramatically,” said Dr. Andrew Clark, of Cambridge University Hospitals, who led the study published in the Lancet. An estimated 15 million Americans are allergic to peanuts. The study involved feeding kids, ages 7 to 16, increasingly higher doses of a finely ground peanut protein powder, mixed in with their food. It started with a dose of 2 milligrams per day, gradually building to 800 mg. The results are “exceptionally promising,” Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, research director of the University of Michigan Food Allergy Center, wrote in an accompanying commentary. But he cautioned that more, and bigger, studies are needed and that the therapy “is years away from routine clinical use.”

need for speed: reaction time matters

Whether you’re naked and hungry on the savanna or driving in traffic, being slow to react can get you eaten or injured. A study offers dramatic evidence of how much speed of response matters: In people ages 20 to 59, slower than average reaction time turned out to be a pretty good predictor of premature death. Between 1988 and 1994, researchers gave 5,134 Americans adults younger than 60 a test of reaction time: The participants were told to push a button upon seeing a 0. In all, 378 of the participants died during a period that averaged 14.6 years — 104 of cardiovascular deaths and 84 of cancer deaths. The University of Edinborough team said that for those with slow reaction times, each standard deviation that separated an individual’s performance from the group’s average increased his or her likelihood of dying by 25 percent. Those who were slower than the average by four standard deviations were twice as likely as those whose performance was average to have died. The authors of the study in PLoS One said response speed was much more likely to predict cardiovascular death than death by cancer. This suggests that before a stroke or heart attack fells its victim, the creeping progress of narrowing arteries, inefficient blood flow and weakening hearts might be evident as a slowing of response time, the authors wrote.

anti-fever drugs increase flu spread

Taking such drugs as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen when you have the flu reduces fever and eases aches, but it may have unintended consequences. A study using mathematical projections has concluded that using anti-fever drugs increases flu spread, both by raising the amount of flu virus shed and increasing interaction between flu sufferers and uninfected people. Fever fights viruses by reducing their ability to reproduce. Reducing fever defeats this effect, increasing the rate and duration of viral shedding. “We’re not saying to avoid these drugs,” said the senior author, David J.D. Earn, a professor of mathematics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. “But if you take them, there’s this effect that’s not obvious.” The authors of the study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, calculated that at least 700 deaths and many more serious illnesses could be avoided annually by not using these drugs. “The real message is straightforward,” Earn said. “It’s better to stay home, and keep your child at home, so you don’t infect others.” news services

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