Health Highlights: Feb. 12, 2014

Health Highlights: Feb. 12, 2014

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Vaccine Pellets for Mice Show Promise In Curbing Lyme Disease

An experimental vaccine to control Lyme disease in mice shows promise, according to researchers.

Controlling Lyme disease in mice would reduce its spread to people. Mice carry the bacteria that cause the condition and infect ticks who bite them. Ticks infect new mice when they feed on them, and ticks also transmit the disease to people, NBC News reported.

The vaccine created by a company called U.S. Biologic was contained in pellets eaten by mice in a wooded area of New York over five years, the researchers reported in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

"Over a few years we saw a 75 percent reduction in the number of infected ticks," Dr. Tom Monath, a member of the board of U.S. Biologic, told NBC News. "That would almost certainly result in a reduction of human infections."

The company is seeking U.S. Department of Agriculture approval for the vaccine, which would be distributed in places where people are at risk of getting infected with Lyme disease, such as hiking paths and parks.

About 300,000 people in the United States are infected with Lyme disease every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Imbruvica Approved for Treatment of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia: FDA

The drug Imbruvica (ibrutinib) has been approved to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in patients who have undergone at least one previous type of treatment, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.

This is an expanded approval for Imbruvica, which was approved in 2013 to treat mantle cell lymphoma in patients who'd had at least one previous type of treatment.

"Today's approval provides an important new treatment option for CLL patients whose cancer has progressed despite having undergone previous therapy," Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in an agency news release.

CLL is a rare blood and bone marrow disease. About 15,680 Americans were diagnosed with CLL and 4,580 died from the disease in 2013, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Approval of the drug, made by Pharmacyclics of California, was based on a clinical trial of 48 patients with CLL who'd had previous therapy. It showed that the cancer shrank in nearly 58 percent of the patients who received Imbruvica, and that the length of the response ranged from about six to 24 months.

Chick-fil-A Switching to Antibiotic-Free Chicken

Antibiotic-free chicken will served at all Chick-fil-A outlets within five years, according to the company.

It said Tuesday that it's working with suppliers to ensure there is a sufficient supply of antibiotic-free chicken for its nearly 1,800 restaurants, the Associated Press reported.

Suppliers are also being asked to work with the federal Department of Agriculture to verify that chickens used by Chick-fil-A have never been given antibiotics.

The Atlanta-based chain will keep customers updated about the switch to antibiotic-free chickens and eventually advertise the change in its restaurants, Tim Tassopoulos, executive vice president of operations, told the AP.

Overuse of antibiotics in farm animals can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

Graco Recalls Millions of Child Car Seats

About 3.7 million child car seats are being recalled by Graco due to potential problems with harness buckles.

The red release button in the center of the harness can become hard to open or can get stuck, which can make it difficult or impossible to remove a child quickly in an emergency, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Graco said that the problem with the harness buckles can be caused by an accumulation of food and dried liquids. The company said it has not received any reports of injuries associated with the problem, CNN reported.

The voluntary recall covers 11 models of seats made between 2009 to July 2013. The NHTSA wants Graco to recall an additional seven models and 1.8 million more child car seats but the company is resisting the request.

If all the models of seats were included, it would be the largest such recall ever, according to CNN.

The recall includes these toddler convertible car seat models: Cozy Cline, Comfort Sport, Classic Ride 50, My Ride 65, My Ride 65 with Safety Surround, My Ride 70, Size4Me 70, My Size 70, Head Wise 70 and Smart Seat. It also includes these harnessed booster seat models: Nautilus 3-in-1, Nautilus Elite and Argos.

The models Graco refuses to recall despite the NHTSA's request are: Snugride, Snugride 30, Snugride 32, Infant Safe Seat-Step 1, Snugride 35, Tuetonia 35, and Snugride Click Connect 40, CNN reported.

King Richard III's Genome to be Mapped

The genome of England's King Richard III will be sequenced in an effort to determine his appearance and possible health issues.

The king was 32 years old when he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. His remains were found buried under a parking lot in 2012.

"There are no contemporary portraits of Richard," geneticist and genome project leader Turi King told CNN. "All the portraits that exist post-date his death by about 40 to 50 years onwards. So it's going to be interesting to see what the genetic information provides in relation to what we know from the portraits."

The genome mapping will reveal the color of the king's eyes and hair, as well as his risk for certain health problems. Shakespeare portrayed Richard III as a hunchbacked villain and King said she is especially curious find out if the English monarch was predisposed towards scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine.

Richard III will be the first known historical figure to have his genome sequenced. It's previously been done with Neanderthals, Oetzi the Iceman, and a hunter-gatherer from Spain, CNN reported.

Euthanasia for Children to Become Legal in Belgium

Belgium is expected this week to extend its right-to-die law to include children.

The country already permits euthanasia for those 18 and older and the move to extend that right to youngsters appears to have wide support, the AP reported.

The new rules will be narrowly focused and only apply to a small number of teens who have advanced cancer or other terminal conditions and are suffering unbearable pain, explained Dr. Gerland van Berlaer, a prominent Brussels pediatrician.

"We are talking about children that are really at the end of their life. It's not that they have months or years to go. Their life will end anyway," van Berlaer, chief of clinic in the pediatric critical care unit of University Hospital Brussels, told the AP. "The question they ask us is: `Don't make me go in a terrible, horrifying way, let me go now while I am still a human being and while I still have my dignity.'"

But a vocal minority in Belgium oppose the move.

"We are opening a door that nobody will be able to close," Andre Leonard, the archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and chairman of the Episcopal Conference of Belgium, told the AP. "There is a risk of very serious consequences in the long term for society and the meaning we give to life, death and the freedom of human beings."

The Netherlands permits children ages 12 to 15 to be euthanized with their parents' permission, and those ages 16 to 17 can make the decision but must notify their parents first. In Luxembourg, euthanasia is legal for people 18 and older.

SCROLL TO TOP