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Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(10):1859

From the “1,001 Uses for Breast Milk” file: a compound found in breast milk, α-lactalbumin, can shrink or destroy many skin warts. According to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers in Sweden, who were testing ways to fight bacterial superinfection (bacteria infecting cells already infected by a virus), applied the protein to double-infected lung cancer cells. Much to their surprise, not only were the cancer cells destroyed, but so were the bacteria inside them. This happened because the milk protein bound to oleic acid, creating a new compound they named HAMLET. The team then began testing HAMLET on plantar warts, and discovered that the warts shrank by about 75 percent in the first three weeks, and that at least three fourths of the warts disappeared entirely after a second treatment. Additional studies are needed, but it is hoped that the compound will be helpful in the treatment of skin papillomas.

Many schools are still struggling to make the grade when it comes to serving healthy lunches, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. Of the 11 school districts that provided information for the group’s annual School Lunch Report Card, only three received a “B,” and none received an “A.” The districts were graded on the nutritional value of elementary school lunch menus. The top three districts were Fair-fax County, Va., San Diego, and Detroit. Baltimore and Albuquerque came in last, with a “D,” and an “F,” respectively.

Because of new guidelines from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education that went into effect a little over a year ago, new physicians are working fewer hours than their predecessors. According to a report from, today’s residents are guaranteed 10 hours of rest between shifts and cannot be on duty for more than 80 hours per week or 24 hours at a time. Unfortunately, these new rules may be causing friction between residents and more experienced physicians, who worry that the new physicians are not as dedicated to their jobs. Many residency program directors firmly believe that this rift can be mended over time, to the benefit of physicians and the patients they treat. While most residency programs are in compliance with the new standards, the American Medical Student Association believes that violations are underreported and that medical students are picking up some of the slack.

Physicians should be alert to identifying and assisting patients who have problems paying for prescription medications. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, about one third of chronically ill adults who underuse prescription medications because of cost never discuss decreasing their drug use with a physician. Of the 660 patients with chronic illnesses who were surveyed, 66 percent reported that their physician never asked them about their ability to pay for prescriptions, while 58 percent reported that they did not think their physician could help them. However, 72 percent of patients who did discuss cost issues with their physician found it helpful.

“Okay, dog, heal!” Good news for diabetic doggies, as reported on next year, a newly approved insulin will become available that is intended for canines. Why a separate insulin? About one in every 200 dogs in the United States develops one of two types of canine diabetes. With one form of the disease, a dog presents with symptoms that are typical in the human population (excessive thirst, frequent urination); with the second type of diabetes, the symptoms are more severe (vomiting, depression). This is offered as an FYI, just in case you may be tempted to treat Fido at home.

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