Health Highlights: March 29, 2007

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

Green Tea May Help Fight HIV

Green tea may help reduce the risk of HIV infection and slow the spread of the virus in people who are already infected, concludes a study by U.S. and U.K. scientists.

They found that a component of green tea called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) prevents HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- from binding to immune system cells. EGCG does this by binding to immune system cells first, leaving no room for HIV to attach to the cells, BBC News reported.

    • Green Tea May Help Fight HIV
    • Kuwait Bird Flu Outbreak Prompts Cull of 1.1 Million Chickens
    • Bird Flu Likely Cause of 2 Deaths in Indonesia
    • FDA Launches Web Site Warning of Online Accutane Sales
    • Bacteria Contamination Spurs Wrinkle Cream Recall
    • Food Dominates TV Ads for Children

The study, which looked at the ability of EGCG to block HIV from binding to immune cells in test tubes, appears in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

"Our research shows that drinking green tea could reduce the risk of becoming infected by HIV, and could also slow down the spread of HIV," said Professor Mike Williamson of the University of Sheffield in the U.K.

"It is not a cure, and nor is it a safe way to avoid infection, however, we suggest that it should be used in combination with conventional medicines to improve quality of life for those infected," he said.

Williamson said research is underway to determine the levels of protection offered by different amounts of green tea, BBC News reported. Experts not involved in the study noted that this is very preliminary research.


Kuwait Bird Flu Outbreak Prompts Cull of 1.1 Million Chickens

About 1.1 million chickens will be slaughtered within the next few days in an effort to halt an outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu virus in Kuwait, an agricultural official said Thursday.

The chickens will be destroyed at farms owned by three large companies and located in Wafra, south of Kuwait City on the Saudi border. That's where most of the 57 cases of the H5N1 virus have been detected since the start of the outbreak in late February, Agence France Presse reported.

Since the outbreak began, about 200,000 fowl that were in contact with infected birds have been killed. Kuwait has banned the import and export of birds, shut down bird markets, and closed the nation's only zoo.

In early March, a team of experts from the World Organization for Animal Health traveled to Kuwait to assess the outbreak and help officials deal with it, AFP reported.


Bird Flu Likely Cause of 2 Deaths in Indonesia

It's likely that bird flu has claimed the lives of two more people in Indonesia, the country's health ministry said Thursday. The two victims died after each tested positive for bird flu in an initial test. Follow-up tests are being conducted to verify the results.

If it's confirmed that the two people -- one on the island of Sumatra and one in the capital city of Jakarta -- died of bird flu, that would bring Indonesia's death toll to 71, the highest in the world, Agence France Presse reported.

Prior to these latest cases, Indonesia had announced three confirmed bird flu deaths since last Saturday, which brought the death toll to 69 out of 89 cases of bird flu in humans. Indonesia had hoped to stamp out human infections this year.

Most human cases of bird flu in the country have been caused by contact with sick birds. As part of the effort to halt human infections, Indonesian officials have outlawed the widespread practice of keeping chickens in backyards in Jakarta, AFP reported.

Since the end of 2003, the H5N1 bird flu virus has infected 284 people and killed 169 around the world. Most of the cases have occurred in Southeast Asia. The figures don't include the latest two cases in Indonesia, or the death of a Chinese teenager announced on Thursday.

Experts worry that the H5N1 virus may mutate into a form that's easily transmitted between humans and cause a global pandemic.


FDA Launches Web Site Warning of Online Accutane Sales

People conducting Web searches to buy the acne drug Accutane (isotretinoin) online will now be confronted with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration site warning of the dangers of this type of online purchase, the agency announced Wednesday.

"Isotretinoin is a drug approved for the treatment of severe acne that does not respond to other forms of treatment," the FDA said in a statement. "If the drug is improperly used, it can cause severe side effects, including birth defects. Serious mental health problems have also been reported with isotretinoin use."

The new Web page should pop up whenever someone searches for Accutane, or any other generic form of isotretinoin, such as Amnesteem, Claravis or Sotret. The page -- -- warns against using the drug without a doctor's or pharmacist's supervision.

Because the use of isotretinoin is strongly linked to birth defects, the FDA and manufacturers have previously collaborated on the iPLEDGE program, aimed at ensuring that women who use the drug do not become pregnant, while curbing the use of isotretonoin in women who are pregnant.


Bacteria Contamination Spurs Wrinkle Cream Recall

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday announced the recall of DermaFreeze365 commercial skin care lotions because of contamination with the Psuedomonas aeruginosa bacterium. The bacterium can cause a wide variety of serious illness, including eye infections and even blindness.

According the products' maker, Woodridge Labs. Inc., of Panorama City, Calif., the recalled products include DermaFreeze365 Instant Line Relaxing Formula (UPC Codes 6-05923-36501-6, 6-05923-36502-3 and 6-05923-10563-6) and DermaFreeze365 Neck & Chest (UPC Code 6-05923-36503-0).

"Because the DermaFreeze365 Instant Line Relaxing Formula may be applied to the area of the eye, there is a possibility that inadvertent introduction of the tainted product could result in serious eye infections and, in rare circumstances, blindness," the company said in a statement.

Contamination with P. aeruginosa was noticed during routine testing and affected products may appear discolored, the company said. "Consumers that have the product should discontinue use of the product and destroy it immediately, or return it to their place of purchase for further processing," Woodridge Labs said.

No cases of illness have yet been reported, but patients with any product-linked health concerns should contact their physician.

Further information on the recall can be obtained at 818-902-5537 or via email at


Food Dominates TV Ads for Children

Food is the most common product in televisions ads that target American children and teens, and many of those commercials are for junk food, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study released Thursday.

In this study, the largest ever to look at television food marketing to young people, researchers analyzed more than 1,600 hours of U.S. television programming broadcast in 2005, the Washington Post reported.

Children ages 8 to 12 watch the most food commercials, an average of 21 a day. That adds up to 7,600 food commercials (about 51 hours worth) a year, the study said. Teens, ages 13 to 17, see an average of 17 food ads a day (more than 6,000 per year), and children ages 2 to 7 see 12 food ads per day (4,400 a year).

The study found that 34 percent of television commercials aimed at children and teens were for candy and snacks, 28 percent were for cereal, 10 percent for fast foods, and 4 percent for dairy products. There were no commercials for fruit or vegetables, the Post reported.

After food, the most common products in televisions ads aimed at children and teens were music, video games and movies.

"The study is really important. It's the first time in over a decade that anybody has looked at television advertising aimed at children. And it's the first time that anyone has looked at such a huge sample of ads," Margo Wootan, director of nutrition for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, told the Post.