Health Highlights: Dec. 19, 2007

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

NIH Project Examines Impact of Microbes on Human Health

A large research project to explore the role of bacteria, fungi and other microbes in human health and disease was announced Wednesday by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Over the next five years, the Human Microbiome Project will award a total of $115 million to researchers.

As part of the project, scientists will collect and analyze microbes present in five specific body regions known to be inhabited by microbial communities: the digestive tract, the mouth, the skin, the nose and the female urogenital tract.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • NIH Project Examines Impact of Microbes on Human Health
    • Immigrant Children in NYC Have Higher Risk of Lead Poisoning
    • U.S. Hospital Admissions Rise for Pulmonary Heart Disease
    • Contaminated Syringes Linked to Blood Infections
    • Green Tea Halves Risk of Advanced Prostate Cancer: Study
    • Marijuana Smoke Packed With Toxins

Researchers will also sequence hundreds of microbial genomes.

"The human microbiome is largely unexplored. It is essential that we understand how microorganisms interact with the human body to affect health and disease. This project has the potential to transform the ways we understand human health and prevent, diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions," NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni said in a prepared statement.

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Immigrant Children in NYC Have Higher Risk of Lead Poisoning

In New York City, immigrant children are five times more likely than U.S.-born children to acquire lead poisoning, says a city health department study published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

The study of children tested for lead poisoning in 2002 found that the risk was highest among recent immigrants. Children who had arrived in the United States within the previous six months were 11 times more likely to have lead poisoning than U.S.-born children.

The highest-risk children were from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico and Pakistan.

Lead-based paint is the primary cause of lead poisoning in both U.S.- (80 percent) and foreign-born children (65 percent) in New York City. But immigrant children may have been exposed to other sources of lead in their homes countries, including pollution, foods, herbal medicines, dishes, toys, jewelry, and cosmetics, researchers said.

"This study suggests that immigrant children are being exposed to lead in their home countries before they arrive in New York City," study co-author Jessica Leighton, Deputy Commissioner of Environmental Health, said in a prepared statement. "And some immigrant families may be bringing tainted products with them to New York City. We encourage all parents, especially parents who are recent immigrants, to be sure their children are tested for lead poisoning at ages one and two, as required by law."

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U.S. Hospital Admissions Rise for Pulmonary Heart Disease

Between 1997 and 2005, U.S. hospital admissions for chronic pulmonary heart disease rose from 301,400 to 456,500, an increase of more than 50 percent, according to the latest News and Numbers from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Pulmonary heart disease is a serious, often fatal, lung blood vessel disorder that causes symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, dizziness and fainting. Most people with pulmonary heart disease have an underlying heart or lung disorder.

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