Health Highlights: March 5, 2014

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

Early Treatment May Have Cured HIV Infection in Second Baby: Doctors

A second baby who was born with HIV infection may have been cured by receiving treatment soon after birth, doctors said Wednesday at an AIDS conference in Boston.

The first case, which was announced last April and involved a baby girl in Mississippi, made doctors worldwide reconsider how soon and aggressively to treat infants born with HIV, the Associated Press reported.

That baby, who began treatment 30 hours after birth, is now 3 1/2 years old and appears to be HIV-free, even though she hasn't received any treatment for about two years.

In the newer case, the baby girl in Los Angeles received treatment four hours after birth and her HIV infection appears to be in remission, according to doctors. However, the state of her infection is unclear because she is still receiving AIDS medicines.

"We don't know if the baby is in remission ... but it looks like that," Dr. Yvonne Bryson, an infectious disease specialist at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA who consulted on the girl's care, told the AP.

She added that the medical team is being cautious about claiming the baby girl has been cured, "but that's obviously our hope."

A number of tests suggest that the baby is clear of HIV, according to Dr. Deborah Persaud, a Johns Hopkins University doctor in charge of the testing. The test results are different than those seen in patients whose HIV infections are merely suppressed by treatment, she explained.

The L.A. baby's mother had HIV but was not taking her HIV medicines. She received AIDS drugs during labor in an attempt to protect her baby from infection. But the girl was infected and began treatment a few hours after birth, the AP reported.

The Mississippi girl received HIV drugs until she was 18 months old, at which point the doctors lost contact with her. When they saw her 10 months later, she had no signs of HIV infection even though her mother had not been giving her AIDS medicines.

A new U.S. government study will examine whether very early treatment can cure HIV infection in newborns. It will include about 60 infants in the U.S. and other countries. They will receive very aggressive treatment that will be halted if long-term testing shows they no longer have active infection, the AP reported.


Cut Daily Sugar to 5 Percent of Calories, UN Health Agency Says

People should halve the amount of sugar in their diet, the World Health Organization says.

Recommended levels of sugar will remain at less than 10 percent of total calorie intake per day, but people should try for less than five percent, according to a new draft guidance issued by the WHO, BBC News reported.

Along with all sugars added to foods, the suggested limits also apply to sugars that occur naturally in syrups, honey, fruit juices and fruit concentrates, according to the guidance, which will be open for public input. Final recommendations are expected to be release this summer.

The WHO recommendation that sugars should account for less than 10 percent of calories was issued in 2002. That works out to about 50 grams a day for an adult with normal weight, BBC News reported.


Another Delay in Full Implementation of Obamacare

Another delay in the full implementation of the new health care law will be announced by the Obama administration, according to a news report.

The Hill said Tuesday that the White House will allow insurers to continue offering health plans that don't meet the minimum coverage requirements in the Affordable Care Act, the New York Daily News reported.

It's the second time in recent months that the Obama administration has taken this type of action. Without the delay, there would have been another round of policy cancellations.

It's not known how long the latest delay will last, but sources told The Hill that it might extend until the end of Obama's second term, according to the Daily News.

The first delay was announced last November and came after insurers cancelled a large number of health policies that did not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as Obamacare.

In promoting the new health care law, Obama had promised that nobody would lose health insurance plans that they wanted to keep, the Daily News reported.

Since it was passed in 2010, the Affordable Care Act has been plagued be a number of problems, including website malfunctions that stalled enrollment.


Program to Fight Antibiotic-Resistant Germs Proposed in White House Budget

A new program to combat the growing threat of dangerous antibiotic-resistant superbugs in hospitals was proposed in the federal budget released Tuesday by the Obama administration.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants $30 million to establish laboratories in five regions of the country to improve hospitals' abilities to rapidly diagnose and fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, the Associated Press reported.

Antibiotic-resistant infections kill more than 23,000 Americans a year, according to the CDC.

If the program receives $30 million a year for five years, it could greatly reduce that toll. For example, the program could halve the number of cases of infection with a particularly dangerous intestinal bug called Clostridium difficile, thereby preventing at least 20,000 deaths, 168,000 hospitalizations and $1 billion in health care costs, the AP reported.

In a separate announcement Tuesday, the CDC said that every hospital needs to develop a program to track and improve antibiotic prescribing. The agency noted that overuse and misuse of these drugs helps bacteria develop resistance. For example, doctors in some hospitals prescribe antibiotics three times more often than those in other hospitals.


Author of Book on Dying Dies at Age 83

An American medical ethicist who wrote an award-winning book about death died Monday.

Dr. Sherwin Nuland, 83, died of prostate cancer at his home in Hamden, Conn., according to his daughter Amelia Nuland. She said her father told her he wasn't ready to die because he loved life.

"He told me, `I'm not scared of dying, but I've built such a beautiful life, and I'm not ready to leave it,'" she told the Associated Press.

In 1994, Dr. Nuland wrote a book called "How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter," which contributed to national discussion about end-of-life decisions and doctor-assisted suicide. The book won a National Book Award for nonfiction and was a best-seller in many countries.

Nuland opposed efforts to prolong life when it was clear that further treatment was pointless, and was also against doctor-assisted suicide, the AP reported.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

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