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Posted - Oct. 22, 2004 at 9:20 a.m.



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Oct 22, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- VACCINE CAN BENEFIT ARTHRITIS PATIENTS

Swedish doctors say pneumococcal vaccination can help protect rheumatoid arthritis patients from lung, brain, blood and ear infections. The study, presented at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, notes rheumatoid arthritis patients have a two-fold increased rate of death and illness from these infections than do those without the disease. Studies have indicated immunization does not worsen the disease in rheumatoid arthritis patients. The new study focused on the safety of the immunization, said investigator Dr. Pierre Geborek of Lund University Hospital. There was concern rheumatoid arthritis patients would not respond to the vaccinations because their disease or treatment affected their immune system so it would not respond to the vaccine. "The essence of the current study is that rheumatoid arthritis patients treated with TNF-blocker can be safely vaccinated against pneumococcal infections under the same premise as patients with other diseases, while methotrexate-treated rheumatoid arthritis patients should be vaccinated preferably before initiation of this treatment," Geborek said.

MALARIA VACCINE GETS GOOD MARKS IN TEST

Spanish scientists report encouraging results from a trial of the effectiveness of a malaria vaccine for children. The authors write in the journal The Lance more than 1 million people die from malaria each year, many of them children. The emergence of resistance to cheap and once effective drugs and population growth in tropical regions could mean by the end of the decade, half the world's population of some 3 billion to 5 billion could be living in areas where malaria is transmitted, the authors say. The malaria vaccine RTS,S/AS02A was shown to work against Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the most severe form of the disease.

ADVICE FROM SURGEON GENERAL ON BONE HEALTH

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona urges a nationwide effort to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, which could affect half of Americans over 50 by 2020. The bone-thinning condition affects some 10 million men and women, with 34 million others at risk for developing the disease responsible for bone fractures in some 1.5 million people each year, notes the first Surgeon General's report on bone health. Carmona recommends maintaining a healthy weight; exercising at least 30 minutes daily for adults and 60 minutes for children.The report also recommends including weight-bearing activities for strength and balance, minimizing falls by removing items that may cause tripping, improving lighting and encouraging vision tests, and getting the recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D.

DRUG MAY BENEFIT JUVENILE ARTHRITIS PATIENTS

The drug etanercept (Enbrel) has been shown effective for up to four years in patients with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Ohio scientists say. Reporting at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, they said the results come from a study of 69 children with severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, who experienced swelling and inflammation in five or more joints and were unresponsive to or unable to take methotrexate. Of children given etanercept for four years, 94 percent showed improvement for the duration. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects 300,000 children, strikes before age 16 and can cause painful joint swelling, deformity, stunted growth and increased mortality.

(EDITORS: For more information about VACCINE, Tammy McCoy at (404) 633-3777, ext. 805 or tmccoy@rheumatology.org. For MALARIA, Preeti Singh at (301) 652 -1558, ext. 108 or +1 301 922 4969 or psingh@burnesscommunications.com. For BONE, (202) 690-6343. For ARTHRITIS, Tammy McCoy at (404) 633-3777, ext. 805, or tmccoy@rheumatology.org)

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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