Health Highlights: Oct. 26, 2008

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

Mechanical Heart Pump Recalled After Deaths

Certain batches of a small mechanical heart pump have been recalled by the manufacturer, after five people died while using the device.

Thoratec Corp. of Pleasanton, Calif., urged patients with a HeartMate II pump to have their implants checked after the company said 27 had to be replaced because of wear and fatigue to an electrical wire, the Associated Press reported.

In five cases, the device could not be replaced and the patients died, the company said in a news release. The reports occurred over five years of clinical experience with 1,972 implants, the company added.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Mechanical Heart Pump Recalled After Deaths
    • Rotavirus Vaccine Cuts Infant Diarrhea
    • Tagless Label Ink May Cause Baby Rashes
    • New Test Checks Embryos for 15,000 Inherited Diseases
    • Sales of Anti-Obesity Drug Acomplia Suspended in Europe

The recall affects devices with catalog numbers 1355 and 102139, which have been distributed to 153 hospitals and distributors throughout the United States and other countries since the beginning of clinical studies in November 2003.

The HeartMate II pump was approved in April as a temporary treatment for patients awaiting heart transplants, but analysts had said the larger market for the product is in "destination therapy," or patients with end-stage heart failure who are too ill for a transplant, according to AP.

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Rotavirus Vaccine Cuts Infant Diarrhea

A vaccine against rotavirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea in thousands of children annually, reduced the number of new cases of the illness by at least two-thirds in its second year of use, researchers reported Saturday.

Rotateq, made by Merck and approved in 2006, worked so well that it may also have cut the spread to non-immunized children in the United States, according to research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Quest Diagnostics.

The vaccine appeared to interrupt the spread of the disease in older children who couldn't have been immunized, Jay Lieberman, medical director of infectious diseases for Quest's Focus Diagnostics unit, told Bloomberg News.

"We saw marked declines of rotavirus in every age group, including those 2-to-6 years old for whom the vaccine isn't recommended," he added. "That's because a 2-month old who was vaccinated was less likely to infect the older brother or sister, or other children in day-care who weren't vaccinated."

Although CDC researchers also found large reductions in the number of children with rotavirus, they lacked data on children's ages that would have pointed to herd immunity, which is a community's resistance to illness, said Umesh Parasher, head of the CDC rotavirus epidemiology team.

Lieberman and Parasher presented their results at a joint meeting of the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy and the Infectious Disease Society of America in Washington.

Lieberman looked at 132,000 rotavirus cases recorded in Quest's database from 2003 through July 2008. Positive tests declined 76 percent in the two most recent seasons compared with the 2003 through 2006 seasons, before Rotateq was cleared for sale, Bloomberg reported.

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