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Archive for the ‘children’ Category

autismAFP (10/20, Santini) reports that researchers at University of California-Davis say that “blood levels of mercury are similar in children with autism and in those developing typically.” In the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers said, “The bottom line is that blood-mercury levels in both populations were essentially the same. However, this analysis did not address a causal role, because we measured mercury after the diagnosis was made.   According to the Los Angeles Times (10/19, Roan) “Booster Shots” blog, the research “is part of a dedicated effort by scientists to identify and study possible causes of autism, both environmental and genetic. The study participants are children between ages 24 months and 60 months who are diagnosed with autism as well as children with other developmental disabilities, and children who are developing normally.”  The Sacramento Bee (10/20, Tong) notes that after looking at the 452 children, the researchers found that “children with autism had lower [blood mercury] levels, but it was because they eat less fish.” After the “researchers took fish consumption into account, the difference disappeared.” HealthDay (10/19, Gardner) and Reuters (10/20, Morgan) also cover the story.

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chromosome 5HealthDay (10/7, Preidt) reported that, according to research published Oct. 8 in the journal Nature, researchers from Harvard University’s Broad Institute say they have identified “new genes and genomic regions that might be associated with autism.” Specifically, the team has “identified a single-letter change on chromosome 5 near a gene called semaphorin 5A, which is believed to help guide the growth of neurons and…axons.” This gene’s activity seems “to be reduced in the brains of people with autism.” By analyzing “DNA from people with autism,” the investigators “also found a possible link between autism and parts of chromosomes 6 and 20.”

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pregnant_woman_smokingBBC News (10/1) reports that, according to research published in the Oct. issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, women “who smoke during pregnancy put their children at greater risk of psychotic symptoms, such as delusions and hallucinations.” Researchers from the UK’s Cardiff, Nottingham, Bristol, and Warwick universities found that children “whose mothers had smoked were 20 percent more likely to suffer such problems.” Notably, “the link was 84 percent more pronounced if 20 or more cigarettes a day were smoked.” The investigators “suggested tobacco exposure in the womb may affect the child’s brain development.”

       

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PandaMedscape (9/30, Cassels) reported that research from the UK indicates that “streptococcal infections (SIs) do not appear to cause or trigger obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or Tourette syndrome (TS) — findings that run contrary to several earlier smaller studies.” According to the paper published online Sept. 30 in Neurology, “SI can induce autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders, in particular Syndenham chorea.” Thus, scientists have speculated that “the association may extend to tic disorders, OCD, and other neuropsychiatric disorders with onset in childhood.” In other words, “the process of molecular mimicry, where by antibodies directed against bacterial antigens cross-react with brain targets,” has been implicated in the pathogenesis of pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS).  But, after reviewing data on “4,774 children and young adults in the UK,” WebMD (9/30, Hitti) reported that researchers at the UK’s University College London “found no evidence of that connection.” Investigators were quick to point out, however, “that their findings don’t rule out any possibility of such a link, but that a very large, prospective study that ‘may be prohibitively expensive’ isn’t supported by current evidence.”

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bp-buckeyepsychiatryMedWire  (8/25, Davenport  http://tinyurl.com/early-age-bipolar) reports that, according to a study published online Aug. 17 in the journal Acta Neuropsychiatrica, patients with “bipolar I disorder…who have an early age of onset have a worse outcome than those with a later age of onset.” For the study, researchers from Australia’s Monash University examined data on “239 participants in the Bipolar Comprehensive Outcomes Study,” assessing the patients with “the Young Mania rating Scale, Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Clinical Global Impressions Scale, Short Form-36, SLICE/Life Scale, and the EuroQol.” The investigators found that “patients with an early age of onset had significantly more severe depressive symptoms and higher rates of suicidal ideation than other patients.” In addition, “early onset patients…were also more likely to experience a depressive first episode than other patients.” The authors also reported that “early onset patients had more frequent psychologic distress, and subsequent social and role disability than other patients, and were more dissatisfied with their lives.”

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sfpThe New York Times (7/24, A11, Arnquist) reports, “The nation’s top public health officials are alerting doctors that swine flu may cause seizures, after four children were hospitalized in Texas for neurological complications.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that “all four children fully recovered without complications after being treated.” Public health experts said, however, that “flu-related brain complications are more common in children than adults, and swine flu seems to infect children more often than adults.” As a result, they “expect to see more cases of children who develop swine-flu-related neurological complications as the pandemic continues.”  An editorial accompanying the CDC’s report in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report noted that “seasonal flu can also cause neurological complications, such as personality changes, loss of concentration, involuntary eye movements, and impairment of cognitive function,” Bloomberg News (7/24, Lopatto) reports. The researchers noted that these “warnings may prevent doctors from giving patients the wrong medications for the neurological symptoms.  Reuters (7/23, Steenhuysen) reported that health officials are urging physicians to test respiratory specimens and begin treatment with antiviral medications for children hospitalized for neurological complications and influenza-like symptoms.

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bpMedWire (6/17, Cowen) reported that, according to a study published in the journal Bipolar Disorders, “elevated mood and decreased sleep can distinguish bipolar disorder from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) in very young children.” For the study, researchers from the Pennsylvania State University Medical School “examined the course of individual symptoms over the first 10 years of life in 27 children with bipolar disorder, who were diagnosed before nine years of age, and 22 children with” AD/HD. Next, “the children were rated by a parent for the presence and severity of 37 symptoms.” While “the team found the symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and decreased attention span were very common and showed a similar course in both groups,” they also discovered that “extended periods of mood elevation and decreased sleep were significantly more common in the bipolar children than in those with” AD/HD, and “were strong differentiators between the two disorders from as young as three years of age.” These differences “increased in magnitude over the first 10 years of life.”

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MelatoninMedscape (6/10, Kling) reported that, according to a study presented at a sleep conference, “low-dose melatonin may be an effective treatment for insomnia in” children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). For the study, researchers from Vanderbilt University “enrolled children aged four to 10 years diagnosed with ASD who required at least 30 minutes to fall asleep on three out of seven nights of the week.” Meanwhile, “parents filled out sleep and behavioral survey forms at the beginning and end of all study procedures,” and “patients wore actigraphy watches (Respironics) for 17 weeks.” After 21 days, “patients were given 1-mg melatonin (Natrol),” with dosages being “escalated to 3 mg, 6 mg, and 9 mg,” every three weeks thereafter “until the patient fell asleep within 30 minutes at least five out of seven nights per week.” At study end, the “Children’s Sleep Habits Questionnaire showed improvement in sleep-onset delay…and sleep duration,” as well as for “repetitive-behavior scale domains of compulsive” and ritualistic behavior.

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textOn the front page of its Science Times section, the New York Times (5/26, D1, Hafner) reports that physicians and psychologists are “beginning to worry” that sending text messages “is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury, and sleep deprivation” in teenagers. In fact, “American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company.” But, “the rise in texting is too recent to have produced any conclusive data on health effects.” Peter W. Johnson, an associate professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the University of Washington, noted, however, that “based on our experiences with computer users, we know intensive repetitive use of the upper extremities can lead to musculoskeletal disorders.” Meanwhile, Sherry Turkle, PhD, a psychologist who is director of the Initiative on Technology and Self at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, speculated that texting “might be causing a shift in the way adolescents develop” by making it more difficult for adolescents to “break free from parents as they grow into autonomous adults.”

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Risperdal_tabletsOn the front of its Marketplace section, the Wall Street Journal (5/18, B1, Armstrong) reports a deceleration in the increase of antipsychotic-medication “prescriptions for children…as state Medicaid agencies heighten their scrutiny of usage,” and physicians “grow more wary of the powerful” medicines. The softening “sales for children is the first sign that litigation, reaction to improper marketing tactics, and concern about side effects may be affecting what had been a fast-growing children’s drug segment.” Data from medical market research company SDI Health indicate that “antipsychotic prescriptions for children under 18 rose 5.2 percent between 2007 and 2008, compared with an increase of 8.73 percent in the year-earlier period,” with the “slowdown” being “more pronounced among younger children.” But, some psychiatrists “who treat children with serious and dangerous behavioral problems” now “worry that misconceptions about” antipsychotics “will prompt some parents or doctors to balk at their use.” Psychiatrist Louis Kraus, MD, said, “For those children who are seriously mentally ill…the benefits far outweigh the side effects.”

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