Health Highlights: May 17, 2010

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

MRSA Infections in Children Up 10-Fold: Study

Dangerous drug-resistant staph infections have increased 10-fold in U.S. children in recent years, a study published Monday says.

Methicillin-resistant staph infections, known as MRSA, jumped from two cases to 21 cases per 1,000 hospital admissions between 1999 and 2008, the study found, according to the Associated Press.

Twenty-five children's hospitals were involved in the study, which is published in the journal Pediatrics.

Most of the MRSA infections were acquired in the community, not in the hospital, a finding that seems to bolster recent evidence suggesting that hospital-acquired MRSA cases are declining while community-acquired cases are becoming more common.

Of the 30,000 children hospitalized with MRSA infections at the medical centers studied, most had skin or muscle infections, and 374 died. However, it isn't clear if MRSA caused those deaths, said lead author Dr. Jason Newland, an infectious disease physician at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics and the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The researchers also noted an increase in use of the antibiotic clindamycin. In some regions, MRSA is becoming resistant to the drug, and doctors need to use it judiciously, said Newland.


Deaths Prompt Recall of Toy Dart Gun Set

Two boys' deaths from asphyxiation have led to the recall of 1.8 million toy dart gun sets, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Monday.

A 9-year-old and a 10-year-old died after chewing on the soft plastic darts, which lodged in their throats and cut off their breathing, the Associated Press reported.

"We want parents to know about the risks to children during the preteen years that can come from aspirating these toy darts," warned CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum.

The "Auto Fire" dart gun sets, sold nationwide at Family Dollar stores from September 2005 through January 2009, were imported by New Jersey-based Henry Gordy International.

Family Dollar Stores worked with the agency on the recall after Henry Gordy refused to recall the dart set, the agency said, according to the AP.

Consumers, who can get a refund from Family Dollar, should discard the $1.50 dart gun sets, the agency said.


International Study on Cell Phones, Cancer Inconclusive

Researchers and manufacturers had hoped a major study into the possible link between cell phone use and two types of brain cancer would resolve the debate, but the results are inconclusive, according to a new report.

The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer conducted the 10-year study involving almost 13,000 participants in 13 countries, the Associated Press reported. It found cell phone use didn't raise the risk of developing meningioma, a common, often benign tumor, or the rarer, deadlier glioma tumor.

The study did find "suggestions" that heavy use -- 30 minutes or more a day -- could increase the risk of glioma, but said "biases and error prevent a causal interpretation" that would directly blame the cancer on cell phone radiation, the AP said.

Use of cell phones has changed dramatically since the start of the study in 2000, and the authors said more research is needed before they can rule out a link between cell phone radiation and brain cancer.

Participants were asked how much they used their cell phone and on which ear. In some groups, cell phone use was associated with reduced risk of cancer, which the scientists said was "implausible."

The report will be published Tuesday in the International Journal of Epidemiology. Of 12,848 participants interviewed, 5,150 had either meningioma or glioma tumors, the news service said.


Schools to Serve Safer Beef

When students return to school after summer vacation, they'll be served better-quality beef in the school cafeteria, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday.

Under new standards starting in July, producers will have to test the beef for contamination more often, and they will not be able to sell beef produced on the same day that E. coli O157 or salmonella is found through testing at a plant, the Associated Press reported.

The new standards will also bar the use of certain trimmings.

The agriculture department directs the school lunch program and coordinates schools' food purchases. In February, it said that the National Academy of Sciences will review the government's beef purchases, the AP said.


Heinz Cooks Up a Less Salty Ketchup

In a nod to America's growing interest in healthy eating, Heinz is reducing the salt in its ketchup.

The new version -- with a 15% cut in sodium -- represents the first significant formula change in 40 years, the condiment maker said, the Associated Press reported. It will appear on store shelves this summer.

The altered recipe was tested in cities throughout the United States, said Jessica Jackson, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh-based company.

Jackson added that the change will be reflected in the nutrition panel, but said consumers wont see a dramatic label change announcing the recipe's alteration, the AP said.

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