Health Highlights: June 8, 2008

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

Stem Cell Treatment May Have Cured Child With Rare Skin Disease

University of Minnesota doctors believe they have hit a "home run" in using stem cell therapy in a 2-year-old boy's bone marrow by curing him of a rare disease that had been described as incurable.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that doctors performed a bone marrow transplant on 2-year-old Nate Liao, who had been suffering from recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB), a genetic condition that literally causes skin to peel off at the slightest touch.

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The stem cell procedure, previously done only in laboratory animals, was successful, the newspaper reports, so successful in fact, that University of Minnesota bone marrow specialist Dr. John Wagner said, "Maybe we can take one more disorder off the incurable list. It's not often that it feels like you hit a home run in medical research, but this one feels like it."

Nate's older brother Jake, who also has the disorder, was given a bone marrow transplant late last week, and 30 patients will be part of an upcoming clinical trial to continue the research, the Star Tribune reports.

RDEB falls into the category of orphan diseases -- very rare maladies. In this case, the skin disorder affects about 10 people per million.

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Tainted Salmonella Tomatoes 'Distributed Throughout the Country,' CDC Suggests

Salmonella food poisoning from raw tomatoes has spread to 16 states, causing U.S. health officials to speculate that the outbreak might be nationwide, the Associated Press reports.

The infestation first began in Texas and New Mexico in mid-April, the wire service said. The latest statistics from those two states' health departments put the number of cases at 56 in Texas and 55 in New Mexico to raw, uncooked, tomatoes.

And an additional 50 people are suspected to have been poisoned with the Saintpaul strain of salmonella bacterium, the A.P. said, leading a spokesperson from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to tell the wire service that the rarity of that strain and the number of illnesses "suggest that implicated tomatoes are distributed throughout the country."

At least 23 people have been hospitalized but there have been no deaths among the patients who range in age between 1 and 82, CDC spokesperson Arleen Porcell told the A.P.

In addition to Texas and New Mexico, the Saintpaul salmonella infection has been reported in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, according to the CDC.

Consumers are warned not to buy any raw tomatoes except cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomatoes sold with the vine still attached and homegrown tomatoes, the wire service reported.

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