Stories tagged prevention

Mar
20
2010

Vitamin D supplement study in children reduced catching flu almost in half

Vitamin D: Calcitriol is the active form of vitamin D found in the body.
Vitamin D: Calcitriol is the active form of vitamin D found in the body.Courtesy JaGa

Last week I blogged about why Vitamin D is needed for health.

This week I came across another study showing that Vitamin D is a flu fighter. The study has just been published online, ahead of print, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
In the study children were asked to swallow six pills a day (25% dropped out). Half of the children's pills were placebos (fake). The pill givers did not know which pills were fake (double blind).

Incidence of influenza A was 10.8 percent among the 167 kids who received vitamin D pills. That's in contrast to a flu rate of 18.6 percent among an equal number of children getting identical looking inert pills. Doctors monitoring the trial confirmed flu cases using a test to assay for the influenza-A germ.

Vitamin D group had fewer asthma attacks

The study also noted that two asthma attacks occurred during the trial among kids getting the vitamin, compared to 12 in the unsupplemented group. The study doesn’t say whether the same number of kids with a history of asthma were in each group so this result may not be valid.

Better protection after 3 months of Vitamin D

The researchers also stated that it may take almost three months “to reach a steady state of vitamin D concentrations by supplementation". I interpret this to mean that takes our bodies about 90 days to accumulate an effective Vitamin D concentration (less illness after 3 months of taking vitamin D than during initial 3 months).

Nov
09
2008

Crestor: :Rosuvastatin
Crestor: :RosuvastatinCourtesy Mykhal
The drug company, AstraZenca, makes a drug called Crestor and also receives royalties from a particular blood test (hsCRP) which detects C-reactive protein (CRP), an indicator of infection.

AstraZenca funded a study which found that their product, Crestor, when given to patients identified as having infection via their blood test (hsCRP), "slashed the risk (of heart attack or stroke) of those flagged by the test by about half -- even if their cholesterol was normal".

Infection's role in cardiovascular risk

Why people with normal cholesterol levels suffered heart attacks or strokes has been puzzling. In the study,

either 20 milligrams of the statin Crestor or an inert placebo (was given) daily to 17,802 middle-aged and elderly men and women who had what are considered safe cholesterol levels but high CRP -- 2 milligrams per liter of blood or above.
(They)stopped the trial ... after an average follow-up of less than two years, concluding that the benefit was so striking that it would unethical to continue withholding the real drug from those taking the placebo.
Compared with those getting the placebo, those taking Crestor were 54 percent less likely to have a heart attack, 48 percent less to have a stroke, 46 percent less likely to need angioplasty or bypass surgery to open a clogged artery, 44 percent less likely to suffer any of those events and 20 percent less likely to die from any cause, the researchers reported yesterday. WashingtonPost

Costs, benefits, and alternatives

For every 1000 people in this study who took Crestor, there were about 2 who had heart attacks compared to about 4 in the placebo group (per year).

Some skeptics, however, argued that the actual risk reduction for an individual would be very small, given the relatively low risk for most middle-aged people, so the benefits easily could be outweighed by the costs of thousands more people taking tests and drugs and being monitored by doctors.

The risks from extended use of Crestor by millions of patients is unknown. We do know that lifestyle interventions are effective.

Join the discussion, learn more

Washington Post Staff Writer Rob Stein will be online Monday, Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss a new study that could transform efforts to prevent heart attacks and strokes. You can discuss whether you think drugs and money or lifestyle changes are best for our future there or in comments below.

Read the research paper: Rosuvastatin to Prevent Vascular Events in Men and Women with Elevated C-Reactive Protein

Sep
05
2008

We're back in business here at the Science Museum (although the building is still closed to the public until next Friday), just in time to report some good news.

Ouch: Taking one for the team?
Ouch: Taking one for the team?Courtesy Spamily

The CDC reported yesterday that 77.4% of US children between the ages of 19 months and three years received all their recommended vaccinations in 2007. That's a slight improvement over the 2006 statistic. There are big regional variations in coverage, and children living below the poverty line are slightly less likely to be fully vaccinated, but overall less than 1% of US kids received no immunizations at all.

What are the recommended shots?

  • Four or more doses of diphtheria, tetanus toxoid, and any acellular pertussis vaccine, or DTaP
  • Three or more doses of polio vaccine
  • At least one dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine
  • At least three doses of Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine
  • At least three doses of hepatitis B vaccine
  • At least one dose of varicella vaccine

Some folks don't vaccinate their kids--particularly against measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)--because they worry that the vaccine is linked to autism. That theory has been debunked many times, in many countries, but it persists. On Wednesday, researchers from Columbia University and the CDC offered up another study showing zero causal relationship between the MMR vaccine and autism (or gastrointestinal problems.) So kids, roll up your sleeves at those back-to-school physicals and get your shots. It sucks, but it beats getting measles.

On the other hand, evidence is mounting to show that flu shots don't work well to protect people over 70. Older people have a lesser immune response to the vaccine and don't develop as much immunity. But the very old and the very young also account for the highest number of flu deaths. So what to do? According to the NT Times article:

"Dr. Simonsen, the epidemiologist at George Washington, said the new research made common-sense infection-control measures — like avoiding other sick people and frequent hand washing — more important than ever. Still, she added, “The vaccine is still important. Thirty percent protection is better than zero percent.”

Another way to protect the elderly is to vaccinate preschoolers. Not only are they likely to pick up the flu before other members of the family, but there's some evidence that preschoolers are actually the drivers of annual influenza outbreaks. Stop the flu in young kids, and you might just stop it for everyone else, too.

Gov. Rick Perry ordered Friday that schoolgirls in Texas must be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, making Texas the first state to require the shots. Breitbart.com