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Am Fam Physician. 2001;64(9):1503

Be careful what you swallow. Unfortunately, this was a lesson learned too late for an 86-year-old woman who presented with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. According to a case report in The Lancet, the woman had a history of hypertension, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, spondyloarthropathy and dementia. She had recently finished a course of therapy for recurrent urinary tract infection. On examination, the woman was found to be febrile and tachycardic, and her abdomen was soft and tender to palpation. Tests showed only previous abnormalities. She was diagnosed with sepsis but died shortly thereafter. A fish bone was later found in a liver abscess.

Is VIP treatment in the future for rheumatoid arthritis patients? Researchers in Spain show that vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) may reduce the disabling joint problems associated with rheumatoid arthritis. According to a study published in Southern Medical Journal, mice who receive VIP treatment show delayed onset, lower incidence and decreased severity of rheumatoid arthritis.

“Cool vest, man.” Many multiple sclerosis (MS) patients report that their symptoms get worse in high temperatures and improve in cooler temperatures. According to a study published in Neurology, wearing a cooling vest could help MS patients with muscle strength, fatigue and balance. The vest and head-vest garments attach to a box that pumps coolant fluid through tubes in a vest and cap. The vest reportedly improves balance by 20 percent and muscle strength by 10 percent, and decreases the level of fatigue.

“It's called the hand babble, baby.” A study published in Nature shows that hearing infants born to deaf parents still babble like other infants, only with their hands. The motor and linguistic abilities of three hearing infants exposed only to sign language were compared with those of three hearing infants exposed to spoken language. The sign-exposed infants showed hand movements with a slower rhythm that was restricted to the space in front of the body. Most of the speech-exposed infants produced high-frequency hand activity outside the crucial linguistic space.

After two years, the effectiveness of the anti-impotence drug sildenafil (Viagra) wears off, according to a study published in the Journal of Urology. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham studied 151 men who had filled prescriptions for Viagra. Seventy-four percent initially reported that 25 to 100 mg of the drug enabled them to maintain an erection. Of the 43 men still using Viagra three years later, 16 said they needed to increase the dose by 50 mg to achieve an adequate erection.

According to a study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, a gene therapy technique reduces alcohol consumption in rats. “What, you've never had a rat sidle up to the bar with you and order a tequila shot?” These rats were injected with dopamine D2 (DRD2), a receptor that has been found to be depleted in human alcoholics. Researchers hypothesize that depletion of DRD2 leads human alcoholics to increase their alcohol intake. Initially, the rats with a taste for alcohol drank 80 to 90 percent of their daily fluids in alcohol. After the gene injection, they showed a 43 percent drop in alcohol preference.

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