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Am Fam Physician. 1999;59(11):2969-2970

Just a spoonful of sugar helps the electronic data-recording pill go down? Astronaut John Glenn swallowed an electronic pill that took measurements of his vital signs on his recent space mission, and doctors will soon be using such devices in corrective fetal surgery. The pill, a little longer than one inch, will be implanted into the womb and will help detect signs of preterm labor, a significant cause of postoperative mortality in these fetuses. Researchers also plan to develop a pill to measure pH levels and record fetal heart data in the body, reports Newsweek.

Need a vaccine? How about a banana? Researchers are working on genetically engineered fruits and vegetables that would produce childhood vaccines such as polio and tetanus, as well as an influenza vaccine. A potato that produces a vaccine against Escherichia coli has already been genetically engineered, and the next step is to create food vaccines that are more palatable than the potato in its raw form. The edible vaccines will be easier to store and transport and will probably be inexpensive, says Medical Tribune.

In the near future, fear of needles won't be a good excuse to skip a doctor's visit. Business Week reports that researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have come up with a new way of delivering medicine without the pain of a needle. Four hundred tiny needles with a diameter smaller than a human hair are used in place of one big needle. Together, the 150-μ–long needles are set into a silicon chip about the size of a pinhead. The chip could be used like a transdermal patch; once placed on the surface of the skin, the chip would painlessly send medication to the next layer of skin where it would be absorbed into the bloodstream.

Migraine is more prevalent in women than in men in many areas of the world. According to a study from Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, cited in Hippocrates, the prevalence of migraine in North America is 22 percent in women and 7 percent in men; in South America, 16 percent in women and 7 percent in men; in Europe, 15 percent in women and 6 percent in men; in Asia, 8 percent in women and 2 percent in men; and in Ethiopia, 7 percent in women and 2 percent in men.

Beer may be the newest weapon in the fight against cancer. Investigators from Japan tested 24 beers from all over the world, including 17 lagers, four stouts, two ales and one nonalcoholic beer, according to a study cited in Family Practice News. Most beers effectively inhibited mutagens found in heterocyclic amines, which cause cancer in animals. The stouts were the most protective, while the nonalcoholic beer had no effect.

Can gardening be as effective as a step aerobics class? A study in JAMA showed that 30 minutes of everyday physical activities, such as walking or gardening, can be just as beneficial in the long-term as a structured workout. A total of 235 slightly overweight, sedentary persons were assigned to a group using a structured exercise routine up to five days a week or a group who increased their daily activities. The result after six months? The group that kept to a structured routine showed more improvement in aerobic fitness, but after two years the two groups had similar improvements in body fat, blood pressure and fitness. Neither group lost weight.

“By the year 2003, gunfire will surpass car accidents as the most common cause of [bodily] trauma,” predicts a physician cited in The DO. Because of this, it's important that emergency physicians are trained in ballistics so they're able to help law enforcement officials solve crimes. As soon as gunshot victims arrive, physicians should start collecting evidence. Clothing should be salvaged and stored in paper bags for the police, bullet entrance wounds should be examined, and bullets should be removed with plastic tools so they're not damaged. The primary goal is to treat the patient, of course, but proper collection of forensic evidence for police is also important.

Women who exercise after giving birth tend to be happier and retain significantly less weight, according to a study reported in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing. A questionnaire completed by 1,003 women at their six-week postpartum clinic visit showed that women who had exercised retained an averaged of 8.6 lb, compared with an average of 11.3 lb in women who did not exercise. Exercisers were also more likely than nonexercisers to participate in “fun” leisure activities in the postpartum period; exercisers more often reported having five or six activities, while nonexercisers more often had no fun activities.

Veterinarians have been giving Prozac to depressed puppies for some time now without the consent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But now, according to Psychiatric News, the FDA has approved clomipramine and selegiline for use in dogs. Clomipramine can be used for separation anxiety when owners must be away from their dogs for any length of time, and selegiline is used to treat canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome. Pet owners who are disturbed by their dog's uncontrollable behavior often resort to euthanasia. Veterinarians are hoping these drugs in combination with behavioral therapy will be able to save the lives of many dogs.

Is the child a daydreamer, or could it actually be Lyme disease? According to Family Practice News, researchers at Columbia University in New York City found that children with undiagnosed Lyme disease feel like they are “in a fog.” Eleven children with Lyme disease were compared with their healthy siblings. The children with Lyme disease had been infected with Borrelia burgdorferi for a prolonged period before diagnosis and had seen an average of four physicians over about 64 weeks before proper treatment was begun. The children said they felt “foggy headed,” and parents had noticed that mood-related symptoms lingered long after the physical symptoms had ended. When memory, depression, mood and attention were measured by a variety of tests, significant differences were confirmed between the children and their siblings.

How can a woman decrease her chances of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI)? According to Internal Medicine News and researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, many commonly recommended methods of preventing UTIs in women aren't based on evidence. Women have been told to wear cotton underwear and skirts, warned not to use tampons or wear pants or pantyhose, and coached on the direction to wipe after a bowel movement—and it turns out that these factors don't matter. Some factors found to increase the risk of a UTI are diaphragm use, a childhood history of UTIs, an adult history of UTI within the past two years, and increasing age, parity and sexual activity. Urinating within 20 minutes after intercourse does seem to reduce the risk of UTI in women.

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Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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