Bug-sting vaccines are safe

Vaccination against allergic reactions to stinging insects is highly effective and very safe, according to an international multicenter study presented at the recent meeting of the European Academy of Allergy and Immunology in Birmingham, England.

The study included 842 patients from 19 allergy centers in 10 different countries. Researchers monitored adverse effects from more than 26,000 vaccinations given during four years of study. They only saw adverse effects in 1 percent of the vaccinations and almost all of those were mild effects like itching, hives and fatigue.

The study found that someone receiving venom immunotherapy for a bee-sting allergy has less than a 2 percent risk of experiencing an allergic reaction when stung again.

Studies have shown that as many as 4 million Americans are allergic to insect stings.

For more information on insect sting allergies, call 1-800-23STING for a free patient information brochure produced by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Infection may trigger Tourette's

A study in the June issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, sug-gests that Tourette's syndrome may be triggered by an infection in children who are genetically predisposed to the disease.

The syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by chronic involuntary repetitive movements or vocalizations, called tics. The disorder is most likely genetic, but only a small percentage of those with one copy of the gene develop the disease.

One theory is that following a streptococcal infection antibodies are formed that attack the child's own brain cells, triggering Tourette's. The theory is based on reports of the severe, acute onset of worsening tics in children following strep infections.

They studied antibodies targeted against brain tissue in the blood of 41 children with the disease and 39 without it. They found the children with Tourette's had higher levels on average of the antibodies fighting against the area of the brain called the putamen, which helps control movement and is believed to play a role in Tourette's and other movement disorders.

Identifying risk of Alzheimer's

Brain scans of elderly patients with memory problems helped researchers identify those at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, according to Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

By identifying abnormalities in brain activity, researchers correctly predicted 83 percent of the time who would develop the disease within two or three years. In these patients, brain scans showed four regions of the brain that processed information slower than in their healthy counterparts. Three of the four affected regions control memory functions and these regions are damaged within the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, according to autopsy studies.

Research is supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging and the National Institutes of Health.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disease that destroys brain cells. Patients experience progressive loss of memory, judgment, language and personal care skills. It affects about 25 percent to 30 percent of elderly adults.

FDA approves new heart drug

COR Therapeutics and Schering-Plough Corp. have received marketing approval for Integrilin from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That means it can be used in the United States for the treatment of patients with acute coronary syndrome, including patients who are to be managed medically and those undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention. It's the first drug to be approved for both uses.

In the United States, about 1.3 million people are hospitalized each year with urgent chest pain diagnosed as unstable angina or non-Q-wave myocardial infarction. About 480,000 coronary interventions are performed on them each year. About one out of six patients hospitalized with unstable angina dies or has a heart attack within the first 30 days following hospitalization. The newly approved drug blocks platelet aggregation, preventing thrombus formation in coronary arteries.