Health Highlights: Oct. 27, 2008

Melamine-contaminted milk products have sickened more than 50,000 children in China and caused at least four deaths. The discovery about the eggs raises new concerns that a much larger variety of China-produced food products than previously believed may be contaminated with the chemical, which is used to make plastics and fertilizer, The New York Times reported.

In addition to being used to fake high protein content in dairy supplies, melamine may have been intentionally added to animal feed in China, said an article Sunday in the South China Morning Post. The newspaper said tainted feed for chickens, and possibly for fish and hogs, could result in poisonous meat and seafood, the Times reported.

Also over the weekend, there was news that melamine contamination may have affected more children than previously reported. A survey of homes in Beijing found that nearly a quarter (74,000) of the 300,000 families with children younger than 3 years old had a child who consumed melamine-tainted milk, health officials said Sunday.

The survey was conducted between late September and late October. Officials didn't say how many of the children included in the survey had fallen ill, the Times reported.

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Drugs Show Promise Against 'Superbug'

Two experimental antibiotics show promise in fighting methicillin- resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a potentially deadly superbug that's common in hospitals and other health-care facilities.

U.S. drug maker Paratek said a phase II clinical trial of 234 patients found that its new class of antibiotic called PTK 0896 was 98 percent efficient in countering MRSA. Swiss drug maker Arpida said its Iclaprim drug cured MRSA infection in 92.3 percent of patients. The findings were presented Sunday at the annual Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents held in Washington, D.C., Agence France Presse reported.

But some experts remain pessimistic about efforts to combat MRSA, which causes more than 60 percent of all hospital infections in the United States. In 2005, MRSA infected 94,000 people in the United States and killed 19,000, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Michael Scheld, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, told AFP that "there is almost nothing in the pipeline now ... We as clinicians have nothing that we can obtain to treat these multidrug-resistant organisms for probably five to 10 years."

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