Health Highlights: Aug.18, 2011

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Drug Extends Lives of Obese Mice

A specially-designed drug substantially extended the lives of obese mice, a new study says.

By reducing the amount of fat in the liver and increasing sensitivity to insulin, the drug SRT-1720 protected the mice from obesity-related diseases and enabled them to live 44 percent longer than obese mice that didn’t receive the drug, The New York Times reported.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.

The results “demonstrate for the first time the feasibility of designing novel molecules that are safe and effective in promoting longevity and preventing multiple age-related diseases in mammals,” wrote Rafael de Cabo, a gerontologist at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, and colleagues.

Clinical trials are currently being conducted on drugs closely related to SRT-1720, The Times reported.


Pesticides Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk

Pesticide exposure may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

Finnish researchers tested blood samples from 2,000 adults and found that the highest exposure to the pesticide oxychlordane was associated with a two-fold increased risk for type 2 diabetes, CBS News reported.

The study was published in the Aug. 4 issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

Oxychlordane was banned in the United States in 1988 but can still be found in soil. This is true of a number of “persistent” pesticides that remain in the soil and make their way into animals and humans, CBS News reported.


Three Deaths From ‘Brain-Eating’ Amoeba

So far this summer, two children and a young man in the United States have died from a brain-eating amoeba that’s found in water and enters the body through the nose.

The amoeba is called Naegleria fowleri and is present in warm lakes and rivers during the summer, mostly in the South, the Associated Press reported.

Two of the deaths occurred this month. A 16-year-old Florida girl became ill and died after swimming and a 9-year-old Virginia boy died a week after being dunked on the first day of a fishing day camp.

The third death occurred in June. The victim was a young Louisiana man in his 20s who became infected after using tap water in a neti pot, a small container used to rinse out the nose and sinuses with salt water, the AP reported.

The amoeba was found in the water system of the man’s home and was confined to the house. It was not found in city water samples, health officials said.

Since the amoeba was first identified in the early 1960s, there have been about 120 cases in the United States and nearly all of the patients died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AP reported.

An average of three deaths are reported each year in the U.S. and there were four deaths in 2010. There is no indication that cases are increasing, according to Jonathon Yoder, the CDC’s waterborne diseases surveillance coordinator.


New Insurance Form Offers Clear Policy Details: Federal Officials

The new proposed standard summary form for health insurance will clearly spell out the details of each policy, U.S. officials say.

“Now, every consumer will have clear, easy-to-read, and concise information that tells them what they need to know,” said Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Erin Shields, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The proposed form, which is scheduled to be made public Wednesday and is part of the health reform law, will provide facts ranging from deductibles to the likely cost of having a baby.

Currently, there are wide variations in state laws about what insurers must disclose to consumers, the Journal reported.

The proposed new form is expected to be quite similar to a draft version developed by a National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ committee. Following a public comment period, the form is expected to be finalized by Health and Human Services.


Plant Tied to Salmonella Outbreak Resumes Making Ground Turkey

Ground turkey production has resumed at an Arkansas plant linked to a salmonella outbreak.

Limited production began after additional anti-bacterial safety measures at the Springdale plant were approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Cargill Inc. spokesman Mike Martin, the Associated Press reported.

As of Aug. 11, the salmonella outbreak had sickened 107 people in 31 states, according to federal officials.

The first illness was reported five months before federal officials asked on Aug. 3 that Minnesota-based Cargill recall about 36 million pounds of ground turkey, the AP said.