By Kathy Sena
GARDASIL APPROVED FOR PREVENTING GENITAL WARTS IN MALES
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the Gardasil vaccine for preventing genital warts in males ages 9 through 26. The vaccine protects against human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to genital warts.
The vaccine was previously approved for preventing HPV in girls and women in the same age range. HPV can lead to both cervical cancer and genital warts in women.
The FDA says this new approval for Gardasil is based on a trial that included more than 4,000 boys and men ages 16 to 26. Researchers found Gardasil to be nearly 90 percent effective in preventing genital warts caused by two particular types of HPV. Other studies looked at the immune response of Gardasil in boys ages 9 through 15. They concluded that the vaccine would be as effective in this group as it appears to be in the older group.
Common side effects of the Gardasil injection include headache, fever and reactions at the injection site such as pain, swelling and redness.
Merck, the manufacturer of Gardasil, is conducting further studies to look at both safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in boys and men. We'll keep you posted.
PEDIATRIC HOSPITAL LAUNCHES INFORMATION-PACKED KIDS' HEALTH BLOG
Recently, Children's Hospital Boston launched the first health-and- science blog from a pediatric hospital in the U.S. The blog is called Thrive. Check it out at www.childrenshospitalblog.org. (You don't need to live in Boston to love all the great info here!)
I like this blog because the Children's Hospital medical-staff folks answer parents' questions on everything from "Is it OK to use cartoons to keep my baby busy while I clean the house?" to "Is there a cure for milk allergies?" They create informative YouTube videos too, and you can link to them right from the blog.
Check out Thrive, leave your comments and tell your friends. At a time when there's more and more junk medicine on the Web, this is a helpful - and reliable - resource.
AIR POLLUTION INCREASES INFANTS' RISK OF BRONCHIOLITIS
Infants who are exposed to higher-than-normal levels of air pollution are at increased risk for bronchiolitis, an infection caused by a virus in the bronchioles (the smallest airways in the lungs), according to a new study that appears in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
"There has been very little study of the consequences of early-life exposure to air pollution," says Catherine Karr, M.D. Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and the paper's lead author. "This study is unique in that we were able to look at multiple sources, including wood smoke, in a region with relatively low concentrations of ambient air pollution overall."
The researchers analyzed nearly 12,000 diagnoses of infant bronchiolitis between 1999 and 2002 in southwestern British Columbia and looked at the babies' air-pollution exposure. They also used maps to assess concentrations of air pollution with respect to traffic and wood smoke in the area.
After accounting for variables including sex, gestational age, maternal smoking and breastfeeding, they found that a diagnosis of bronchiolitis was significantly linked to increased lifetime exposure to specific pollutants. Infants who lived within 50 meters (approximately 55 yards) of a highway had an increased risk of 6 percent; those who lived in an area with higher wood smoke exposure had an increase of 8 percent in their risk of bronchiolitis.
"In general, we found that traffic-derived air pollutants were associated with infant bronchiolitis as well as wood smoke and industrial emissions," says Karr. "The magnitude of the effect is modest, but is comparable to most air pollution studies in North America." The importance of these effects becomes significant when you consider that they affect a great number of children because these exposures are so common, she adds.
"This study adds to a growing body of research showing a link between neighborhood air pollution hotspots and pediatric respiratory disease. We were specifically interested in bronchiolitis, the main reason for children to be hospitalized in their first year, as it is an important and costly childhood illness," says Michael Brauer, Sc.D., professor at the School of Environmental Health at the University of British Columbia and principal investigator on the study. "Reducing exposure to air pollution may be one approach to help decrease bronchiolitis occurrence," he adds.
Karr, a pediatrician, also noted that the research might help guide the conversations that doctors have with their young patients' parents. "I think we have a role in educating parents about concerns regarding air pollution," she says, noting that doctors could explain the importance of avoiding living near highways and using wood-burning appliances in the home.
Also, public policies should address exposure to air pollution in residential settings, school settings and daycare, explains Karr. "Places where kids spend a lot of time shouldn't be right next to major highways," she says.
Kathy Sena is a freelance journalist specializing in health and parenting issues and is the mother of a 14-year-old son. Visit her blog here on our site.