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Dec 16, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- SHYNESS MAY INCREASE AIDS RISK

The mechanisms at work in a shy person responding to stress make him more susceptible to AIDS than those in an outgoing individual, researchers report. They say how one reacts to stress influences how easily he resists or succumbs to disease, including viruses like the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, which causes AIDS. Investigators at the University of California, Los Angeles, AIDS Institute report in the journal Biological Psychiatry they have identified the immune mechanism that makes shy people more susceptible to infection than outgoing people. "During the AIDS epidemic, researchers found that introverted people got sick and died sooner than extroverted people," said study co-author Bruce Naliboff, clinical professor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. "Our study pinpoints the biological mechanism that connects personality and disease."


Researchers have gained insights into the rheumatoid arthritis drug leflunomide that may result in changes in the way it is used. Investigators at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis analyzed records of VA patients to determine the effects of the drug, approved in 1998. The Food and Drug Administration recommends starting treatment with high doses to rapidly trigger the drug's benefits. The study, which appears in the journal Arthritis Care and Research, shows such high doses may cause adverse side effects that force some patients to stop taking the drug. The findings may prompt doctors to consider slightly modifying the treatment regimen, said Dr. Seth Eisen, a VA staff physician and professor of medicine and psychiatry at the School of Medicine.


The drug levetiracetam, used to control epileptic seizures, also appears effective against some symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The findings, reported in the journal Archives of Neurology, come from a study of MS patients with one form of spasticity. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas note spasticity is a primary cause of the loss of the ability to walk in many MS patients. In a small trial, the drug reduced so-called phasic spasticity, marked by spasms and painful muscle cramps, in 100 percent of patients. "It's amazing how many MS patients can't walk, can't move, and you treat their spasticity, and they're fine," said Dr. Kathleen Hawker, assistant professor of neurology and lead study author. "What's nice about these drugs is that they also work for nerve pain, which in turn improves the patient's mood, so we can use one drug for three things instead of prescribing pain killers and antidepressants in addition to the spasticity therapies."


Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine are developing a method to assess a patient's risk for colorectal cancer and need for a colonoscopy. Team leader gastroenterologist Dr. Thomas Imperiale, professor of medicine, says the researchers are looking at risk factors to determine who needs the more invasive screening. The team outlines in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine the risk index developed from records of more than 1,000 patients past their 49th birthday. The scientists found three factors increased the chances of finding advanced, pre-malignant growths in the upper colon: older age, male gender and presence of certain types and sizes of polyps in the lower colon, which can be seen by a less invasive and less costly technique called sigmoidoscopy. The scientists said the risk index they developed can identify low-risk patients whose probability of advanced precancerous growths in the upper colon is about 1 in 250. They say this index is a first step toward identifying people who do not require colonoscopy after sigmoidoscopy.

(Editors: For more information about SHYNESS, contact Elaine Schmidt at (310) 794-2272 or For ARTHRITIS Michael Purdy at (314) 286-0122 or For MS Rachel Horton at (214) 648-3404 or For COLONOSCOPY, Cindy Aisen at (317) 274-7722 or

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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