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Am Fam Physician. 2003;67(8):1670

1–2–3. It may be that easy to tell if someone is having a stroke. As reported in The New York Times, a study presented at a conference of the American Stroke Association showed that stroke can be identified using a three-step test that takes only a minute to conduct. Patients who may be having a stroke are asked to smile broadly, showing their teeth; to close their eyes, raise their arms in front of them, and hold their arms out for a count of 10; and to repeat a simple phrase. With this test, researchers acting as 911 operators were able to accurately detect arm weakness 97 percent of the time; speech deficits, 96 percent of the time; and facial weakness, 74 percent of the time. Rapid diagnosis of stroke is important because clot-busting drugs can be used only in the first few hours after a stroke.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has new regulations for labeling organic products. As noted in Consumer Reports on Health, products now can be labeled “organic” only if at least 95 percent of their ingredients are produced without the use of genetic engineering, irradiation, antibiotics, animal by-products, and most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

Boys are trouble from the very beginning, suggests a study of more than 8,000 infants that was published in BMJ. Irish researchers found that complications, including fetal distress, instrumental vaginal delivery, and cesarean delivery, are more likely to occur when the infant is a boy. The study was limited to babies born to first-time mothers who went into labor spontaneously and at term. Although the reason for the findings is unclear, the researchers believe the study provides some scientific basis for the explanation physicians have been known to give when labor and delivery become difficult: “It must be a boy.”

Medicine has gone wild! According to BusinessWeek, scientists are creating chemical copies of substances from some of the world's scariest creatures. A recently developed clot-busting drug, for example, is modeled after an anticlotting substance in vampire bat saliva. Early studies in mice suggest that the drug may be effective in restoring blood flow to tissues affected by stroke. The secretions of other exotic animals, including snails, frogs, scorpions, and snakes, are being studied as potential treatments for many diseases.

Help for computer users may be at hand. Sun-Flex AB, a Swedish company, will soon be marketing an ergonomic replacement for the computer mouse in North America. According to the manufacturer, the device helps to prevent repetitive strain injuries by varying work positions and reducing the load on wrists.

Dirty money! Study results published in Southern Medical Journal show that paper currency commonly is contaminated with bacteria. Researchers solicited $1 bills from people standing in line at a grocery store and waiting in line at a concession stand. Each bill was soaked in a vial of brain-heart infusion broth for 30 to 60 minutes; the bill was removed, and the broth was incubated, streaked onto agar, incubated again, and monitored for growth of bacterial colonies. The 68 bills yielded 93 bacterial isolates, with 64 of the bills (94 percent) having bacterial colonies. Five of the bills (7 percent) were contaminated with bacteria considered to be pathogenic to healthy hosts, and 59 bills (87 percent) yielded bacteria that could be pathogenic to hospitalized or immunocompromised hosts.

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