Health Highlights: Sept. 8, 2008

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

Exercise Decreases Risk of Pregnancy-Related Depression

Exercising and remaining upbeat about their changing shapes may reduce the risk of depression among pregnant women, say U.S. researchers who surveyed 230 women in Pennsylvania throughout their pregnancy and into the postpartum period.

The women were asked about their exercise habits, feelings about weight, appearance and other body image aspects, and about symptoms of depression, United Press International reported.

Women who did more exercise prior to pregnancy were more satisfied with their bodies during the second and third trimesters, and had fewer depressive symptoms in the second trimester than other women.

    • Exercise Decreases Risk of Pregnancy-Related Depression
    • Lap-and-Shoulder Belts Equal to Child Safety Seats in Injury Prevention
    • Urine Test Could Identify Cattle With Mad Cow Disease
    • Bacteria Produce Proteins That Attack Lungs of Cystic Fibrosis Patients
    • Salmonella Cases Prompt Alfalfa Sprout Recall in Northwest

"Our study supports the psychological benefits of exercise to improve body image and lessen depressive symptoms," lead researcher Danielle Downs, of Pennsylvania State University, said in a news release, UPI reported.

The study appears in the August issue of the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.


Lap-and-Shoulder Belts Equal to Child Safety Seats in Injury Prevention

Among children ages 2 to 6, lap-and-shoulder safety belts are as effective as child safety seats in preventing serious injuries in traffic crashes, says a study by researchers at the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But their analysis of three large representative samples of crashes and related hospital data did show that child safety seats are 25 percent more effective at reducing less serious injuries, United Press International reported.

Lap belts alone aren't as effective as child safety seats or lap-and-shoulder seat belts, but are far better than riding unrestrained, the researchers said.

The study appears in the journal Economic Inquiry.

All states require the use of child safety seats and the minimum age and weight requirements for children's use of seat belts has been increasing over time, UPI reported.


Urine Test Could Identify Cattle With Mad Cow Disease

Cattle infected with mad cow disease have elevated protein levels in their urine, a finding that could help lead to the development of a screening test for live animals, Canadian and German researchers announced. Currently, the only way to test for mad cow disease is after cattle have been killed.

"We're pretty excited about it," lead researcher David Knox told the Canadian Press. "It would be sort of like a home pregnancy test. You would just put a strip in the stream of urine and it either comes out positive or negative. Ideally, that's what we'd like to have."

The discovery of elevated protein levels in cattle with mad cow disease was made in tests conducted on four infected cows. The study appears in the journal Proteome Science.

The results also suggests it may be possible to develop a urine test to diagnose people with the degenerative and fatal brain disorder Creutzfeld-Jakob disease and other forms of unexplained dementia, Knox told CP.


Bacteria Produce Proteins That Attack Lungs of Cystic Fibrosis Patients

U.K. researchers have found that colonies of Pseudomonas in the lungs of people with cystic fibrosis produce tissue-destroying enzymes and poisons that attack the lungs, including one that's chemically similar to rattlesnake venom.

These bacteria can live in biofilm communities in the lungs and can become resistant to antibiotics, making them extremely difficult to treat. Pseudomonas bacterial infections thrive in the thick mucous produced in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients and this type of infection is usually the cause of early death in these patients, BBC News reported.

The Cambridge University team found that these bacterial colonies are more active than previously thought and produce a number of dangerous enzymes and poisons.

"This is the first time that anyone has successfully proved that the way the bacteria grow affects the type of proteins they can secrete and therefore how dangerous they can potentially be to our health," said team leader Dr. Martin Welch, BBC News reported.

The trigger for the release of these harmful proteins is turned on shortly after the bacterial biofilm starts to form.

The study may help lead to the development of a drug to target the poisons, an advance that could help in the treatment of cystic fibrosis and antibiotic-resistant hospital superbugs.


Salmonella Cases Prompt Alfalfa Sprout Recall in Northwest

On the heels of the huge nationwide salmonella outbreak that caused more than 1,400 illnesses from Mexican peppers, a regional Oregon alfalfa sprout distributor has recalled its product in Oregon and Washington state after the sprouts were linked to 13 cases of salmonellosis .

According to the Seattle Times, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and health officials in Oregon announced a recall of Sprouter's Northwest brand alfalfa sprouts after 13 people in the two states showed signs of salmonellosis after consuming the sprouts. No deaths have been reported.

Sprouters Northwest, headquartered in Kent, Ore., voluntarily recalled its alfalfa sprout products, the newspaper reports. They are distributed in grocery stores, supermarkets and used in restaurants. The first incidents of salmonella poisoning -- which can cause diarrhea, fever and vomiting -- were reported in early August, the newspaper reports.

This is the second suspected salmonella outbreak involving Sprouter's Northwest, the Times reports. The company recalled alfalfa sprouts in Washington and Oregon in 2004 after 12 people became ill, according to the USDA Web site.

Any Sprouter's Northwest products should be thrown away or returned, the newspaper reports.