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Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(1):21

“Open your mouth and say aaahhh—now let me check your heart.” Cytokines produced in oral infections have been postulated to contribute to the development of coronary heart disease (CHD). In a study conducted in a Finnish hospital and published in Circulation , dental factors expected to generate inflammatory mediators were compared in 256 patients who had angio-graphically confirmed CHD and 250 age-, gender-, and residence-matched patients who did not have CHD. An asymptotic dental score (ADS) was developed from all inflammatory mediators, including pericoronitis, dental caries, dentate status, number of root remnants, and gingivitis. When the ADS was included in the final model (along with C-reactive protein, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and fibrinogen levels), the area under the receiver operating characteristics curve (equated as the C-statistic) was higher than when ADS was excluded.

Downsizing may be taking a toll on the health of employees, according to a prospective cohort study published in BMJ. In the study of 5,909 male and 16,521 female employees from 19 to 62 years of age who worked in four towns in Finland, permanent employees who still had their jobs after major down-sizing were more likely to be absent from work because of sickness than employees who worked at companies that did not downsize during the study period. The study also found that the risk of death from cardiovascular causes was twice as high in the employees who remain in a work place after a major downsizing.

As reported in The Lancet, a group of Danish scientists have come up with an interesting method of locating landmines: genetically modified watercress. The plant has been altered to change color, from green to red, within three to six weeks of being in the presence of nitrogen dioxide, which typically leaks from landmines. The watercress plants would grow from seeds sprayed from the air. Opponents worry that the new growth could attract livestock into active mined areas.

Danger up ahead. Road traffic crashes, so far unrecognized as a global health threat, are on the rise, according to a report from the World Health Organization and the World Bank. As reported in the Washington Post, 1.2 million drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are killed worldwide each year. While the rate is expected to decrease 30 percent by 2020 in industrialized countries, traffic deaths are expected to rise 80 percent in the rest of the world. The report specifically addresses road safety issues in rapidly developing countries, where increasing numbers of cars are entering the roads, and traffic deaths have not been recognized as a major health problem.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported cases of Lyme disease increased by 40 percent in the United States during 2002, to a record 23,763 cases. As reported on, contributing factors included the growing population of deer, more homes being built in wooded areas, and better recognition and reporting of the disease. To lower the risk of contracting Lyme disease, patients should be advised to use insect repellent before going outdoors and to promptly remove ticks from the body.

From the “maybe it’s not such a bright idea” file: A genetically engineered species of aquarium fish, whose DNA has been altered to include a gene found in a variety of coral, will become available to the general public in January, 2005, according to The American Journal of Bioethics and reported on The result of this genetic engineering? A fish that glows in the dark. The problem? Fish generally don’t stay in tanks forever. When people get bored with them, fish often are sent to their great reward via a household drain pipe or toilet. That means that some of the glowing fish eventually will be released into the environment, with unknown ecological consequences. On a positive note, the fish should be easy to find.

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