Health Highlights: Oct. 27, 2008

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

Heart Disease, Infections, Cancer Top Global Killers: WHO Report

Heart problems, infectious diseases and cancer are still the top three causes of death worldwide, says a World Health Organization report on the global burden of disease released Monday. Heart attacks and related problems cause 29 percent of deaths each year, infectious diseases 16.2 percent, and cancer 12.6 percent.

The heart disease death rate was virtually unchanged from 2002, while the rate for infectious diseases was down from 19.1 percent in 2002, the

    • Heart Disease, Infections, Cancer Top Global Killers: WHO Report
    • Implantable Artificial Heart Nearly Ready for Human Tests
    • Brains of People Who Commit Suicide Chemically Different: Study
    • New Vaccine Offers Better Pneumococcal Disease Protection
    • Earlier AIDS Drug Treatment Saves Lives: Study
    • High Melamine Levels Found in Chinese Eggs
    • Drugs Show Promise Against 'Superbug'

Associated Press reported.

Women die more often from heart disease than men -- 31.5 percent vs. 26.8 percent -- but that's because women tend to live to older ages than men, said study lead author Colin Mathers.

The 2004 data from 112 countries also showed that other leading causes of death are: respiratory infections, such as pneumonia (7.2 percent), respiratory diseases, such as asthma and allergies (6.9 percent); accidental injuries and drowning (6.6 percent); newborn health problems (5.4 percent); digestive diseases (3.5 percent); and suicide, murder and conflict (2.8 percent).

Overall in 2004, about 58.8 million people died worldwide. While most of those deaths involved people over age 60, nearly one in five deaths was a child younger than 5 years old, the AP reported.


Implantable Artificial Heart Nearly Ready for Human Tests

A fully implantable artificial heart will be ready for human clinical trials by 2011, according to European researchers who said the heart will help alleviate the worldwide shortage of heart transplant donors.

"We are moving from pure research to clinical applications. After 15 years of work, we are handing over to industry to produce an artificial heart usable by man," heart transplant specialist and project team leader Alain Carpentier told Agence France Presse.

The prosthetic heart, which is shaped like a real heart and has the same blood flow rhythms, is made from chemically treated animal tissues designed to avoid blood clotting or rejection by the recipient's immune system. The heart is meant for use in seriously ill patients for whom drug therapy, ventricular assistance or heart transplant have failed or aren't available, AFP reported.

Digital simulation and animal testing of the artificial heart have revealed no complications, Carpentier said.


Brains of People Who Commit Suicide Chemically Different: Study

Chemical differences in the brains of people who commit suicide have been identified by Canadian researchers who analyzed the brains of 20 dead people.

The 10 who had serious depressive disorder and committed suicide were found to have a higher rate of a process that affects behavior than the 10 who died suddenly from other causes, BBC News reported.

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