Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Year In Medicine From A to Z

It was a year of old scourges and new drugs, from the first vaccine that prevents cancer to a bug that spoiled an entire crop of California spinach



Hoping to sharply cut HIV/AIDS transmission rates in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) took the unusual step of recommending that doctors ask all patients from ages 13 to 64 whether they want to be tested for the virus. One in four Americans living with HIV don't know they are infected; for them, early diagnosis could mean early treatment and longer lives. Antiretroviral drug therapy has already saved nearly 3 million years of life in the U.S. alone. Meanwhile, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS around the world continues to grow, to 40 million, according to estimates released last week by the U.N.


When Madrid barred ultrathin models from the city's fashion week in the aftermath of a model's death, it was clear acknowledgment that culture can fuel unhealthy body images. But genes play a role too. Researchers studying 31,406 identical and fraternal twins born in Sweden from 1935 to 1958 found that if one identical twin suffered from anorexia, the odds were significantly higher that the other did as well. Just because someone is genetically predisposed to anorexia, however, doesn't mean she or he will develop the disorder. The next step will be to figure out which genes are involved and how they affect the brain.

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