Health Highlights: May 28, 2007

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

Game Show Features Kidney Donation

A terminally ill woman on a Dutch reality TV show will choose which of three contestants receives one of her kidneys, the Associated Press reported.

Those responsible for the "Big Donor Show" on the BNN network say they're trying to draw attention to the shortage of organ donors in the country. Critics say the show is tasteless and unethical.

The show will feature a 37-year-old woman with an inoperable brain tumor. She'll interview the three contestants, along with their families and friends. She'll then decide who gets one of her kidneys before she dies, the AP reported.

    • Game Show Features Kidney Donation
    • Bird Flu Survivors' Antibodies Protect Mice Against H5N1 Virus
    • Secondhand Smoke Kills 100,000 Chinese Each Year
    • China to Tighten Food-Safety Rules
    • Apple Juice May Reduce Asthma Risk
    • Contact Lens Eye Solution Pulled From Market

"We know that this program is super-controversial and some people will think it's tasteless, but we think the reality is even more shocking and tasteless: waiting for an organ is just like playing the lottery," Laurens Drillich, chairman of the BNN network, said in a prepared statement.

Drillich said patients on organ-transplant lists have to wait more than four years and 200 patients die each year due to a lack of donor organs.


Bird Flu Survivors' Antibodies Protect Mice Against H5N1 Virus

Antibodies from human survivors of bird flu protected mice against the H5N1 virus, says a study in the open access journal PLoS Medicine. The research could lead to treatments for people infected with bird flu.

"We are very confident that this data can be reproduced in humans," study co-author Antonio Lanzavecchia, director of the immune regulation laboratory at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Switzerland, told Agence France-Presse.

Inoculation with antibodies generated from the blood of four people in Vietnam who survived bird flu provided mice with near total protection against the H5N1 strain of bird flu. The antibodies also proved highly effective in neutralizing H5N1 in mice already infected with the virus.

No untreated mice exposed to H5N1 survived, AFP reported.

Unlike a vaccine, an antibody-based drug would offer protection against bird flu for only a few months. But vaccines are ineffective once a patient is already infected. Because antibody-based drugs are effective immediately and relatively easy to produce on a large scale, they could prove vital in the event of a bird flu pandemic, the researchers said.


Secondhand Smoke Kills 100,000 Chinese Each Year

Secondhand smoke kills as many as 100,000 people in China each year and makes nearly half a million more people sick, says a report released Tuesday by the country's health ministry.

The Xinhua news agency said the report also stated that the nation has nearly 350 million smokers and that about one million people are killed by smoking-related diseases each year, Agence France-Presse reported.

China has banned smoking on public transportation, but it is still allowed in many public places, including restaurants.

"We hope the report can prompt authorities to institute and implement laws or regulations to prevent passive smoking inside office buildings," Xinhua quoted an official with China's National Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the World Health Organization, China is the world's largest tobacco producer and is home to one in three of the world's smokers, AFP reported.


China to Tighten Food-Safety Rules

In response to a series of safety problems, the Chinese government plans to introduce new rules that would force food companies to take back products that pose a health risk, according to the state-controlled China Daily newspaper, Agence France-Presse reported.

The newspaper said the new rules, which would be in line with international practices and introduced by the end of the year, would apply to both domestic and foreign companies operating in China.

Food producers that break the rules would be blacklisted and serious violators barred from selling their products, an official told the China Daily, AFP reported.

Two recent safety issues related to Chinese products include pet food additives that poisoned thousands of animals in the United States, and the presence of diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical sometimes used in antifreeze, in cough syrup and toothpaste in Latin America.

In related news, state media said that the former chief of China's Food and Drug Administration was sentenced to death Tuesday after pleading guilty to corruption and accepting bribes, The New York Times reported.

Zheng Xiaoyu served as the agency's director from its founding in 1998 until mid 2005.


Apple Juice May Reduce Asthma Risk

Apple juice may help prevent asthma in children, says a British study published in the European Respiratory Journal.

The study by researchers at the National Heart and Lung Institute found that children ages 5 to 10 who drank apple juice at least once a day were half as likely to experience wheezing as children who drank apple juice less than once a month, BBC News reported.

Eating fresh apples did not appear to offer the same benefits, the study said.

The researchers said they did not establish a link between drinking apple juice and a reduced chance of an actual asthma diagnosis. However, they noted that wheezing is one of the most important signs that a child is at increased risk for asthma, BBC News reported.

Phytochemicals -- such as flavanoids and phenolic acids -- in apples may help reduce airway inflammation that's a key feature in both wheezing and asthma, said researcher Dr. Peter Burney.

A series of studies have found a link between apples and lung health.


Contact Lens Eye Solution Pulled From Market

Increased incidences of a rare but stubborn eye infection have caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to alert the public to discontinue using a solution used to clean contact lenses.

The Associated Press reports that AMO Complete Moisture Plus Multi-Purpose Solution, used for cleaning and storing soft contact lenses, had been immediately and voluntarily recalled by its manufacturer, Advanced Medical Optics Inc., of Santa Ana Calif.

The infection in question is Acanthamoeba keratitis, which is caused by an amoeba, the A.P. quotes Michael Beach, team leader in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's division of parasitic diseases, as saying. If left untreated, the infection could cause permanent vision loss or complete blindness.

Neither the FDA nor Advanced Medical Optics said the contact lens solution caused increased cases of Acanthamoeba keratitis, the wire service reported. Rather, the solution didn't protect against the infection, which usually comes from swimming or showering.

Because Acanthamoeba keratitis strikes only one or two people per million, the situation came to the government's notice because only because a Chicago ophthalmologist, Dr. Elmer Tu, noticed more than a dozen cases of the infection. He usually saw only saw one or two cases a year, the A.P. reported.