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Sep 02, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- ANTHRAX VACCINE TARGETS TOXIN, BACTERIA

A new anthrax vaccine takes its aim against both the bacteria and the lethal toxins they release. Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, invades the body, abetted by poly-gamma-D-glutamic acid. These molecules form a protective capsule around the bacterium that keeps it hidden from the disease-fighting immune system. As they spread, the bacteria spew cell-damaging poisons. Current vaccines target a component of anthrax toxin called protective antigen but do not target the bacteria directly. The new vaccine, described in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offer protection against both bacteria and toxins, researchers said.

LOW MOOD, LOW IMMUNITY

Researchers have found negative emotions can weaken the body's protective immune system. The new studies help explain the long-known connection between psychological states and immune response, scientists say. To discover the underlying mechanism, investigators asked 52 women to recount the best or worst times of their lives. As they did so, the researchers measured their brain activity. The volunteers were then given a flu shot, and the researchers measured levels of the flu antibodies. They found women dwelling on negative experiences had a weaker response to the flu vaccine, indicating

impaired immunity. They also found the right prefrontal cortex was most active in those with negative emotions, while the left prefrontal cortex was turned on in those focusing on positive experiences. The right prefrontal cortex is associated with negative emotional states, such as depression. The scientists say cortex activation may be a predictor of impaired immunity.

ASPIRIN GAIN WITHOUT STOMACH PAIN

Researchers say a form of aspirin that releases nitric oxide seems to retain its effectiveness without causing stomach upset. Aspirin increasingly is used to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke, but it can harm the stomach lining. The damage may be offset in part by an enzyme called aspirin-triggered lipoxin, or ATL, researchers said. COX-2 inhibitors, anti-inflammatory drugs often taken to treat arthritis, also modulate ATL levels and can worsen the problem, they said. The researchers found an aspirin derivative that releases nitric oxide, called NCX-4016, may offer a safer option. In the study, volunteers who took regular aspirin suffered twice the gastric damage as those who took NCX-4016. The results suggest NCX-4016 could be a safer alternative for arthritis patients taking COX-2 inhibitors, the scientists said in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT BIRTH CONTROL METHOD

With women having more contraceptive options than ever before, there are a number of factors they should consider in making their selection, scientists say. Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Vanessa Dalton of the University of Michigan Health System says women need to be informed about the ever-changing options, including the newest forms of hormonal birth control and the overhaul of the intrauterine device, or IUD. She advises women to consider such factor as medical problems that might preclude use of some forms of birth control. "The other thing they need to consider is what kind of user they would be," she advises. "Are they someone that can remember to take a pill every day on schedule or do they feel more comfortable interrupting sexual activity to use, for example, a diaphragm or condom?" Some women may prefer natural methods of pregnancy prevention for religious or cultural reasons, Dalton adds.

(Editors: For more information about ANTHRAX, contact Julia Wang at 617-732-8585 or julia_wang@rics.bwh.harvard.edu. For MOOD, Richard Davidson at 608-265-8189 or rjdavids@wisc.edu. For ASPIRIN, Stefano Fiorucci in Italy at +39-075-578-3883 or fiorucci@unipg.it. For BIRTH, Andi McDonnell at 734-764-2220 or andreakm@med.umich.edu)

Copyright 2003 by United Press International.

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