Health Highlights: Dec. 29, 2009

By on December 29, 2009

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

Moldy Smell Prompts Recall of Tylenol Arthritis Caplets

Consumer complaints about a moldy smell and gastrointestinal side effects from Tylenol Arthritis Caplets have led McNeil Consumer Healthcare to expand its voluntary recall of the 100-count bottles.

The New Jersey-based company announced the recall of all product lots of the Arthritis Pain Caplet 100-count bottles with the red EZ-Open Cap after reports of a moldy or musty smell that might cause vomiting, stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea.

The odor comes from trace amounts of a chemical called 2,4,6-tribromoanisole, which is created by the breakdown of another chemical used to treat wooden pallets that carry packaging materials, according to a McNeil statement. Not much is known about the health effects of this compound, but none of the side effects reported to McNeil were long-lasting or serious, the company said.

Consumers who bought the 100-count bottles with the EZ-Open red cap from the lots included in the recall can contact McNeil for instructions on a refund or replacement at 1-888-222-6036 or Contact your doctor if you have medical concerns, the company advises.

In 1982, seven people in the Chicago area died after taking Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules that had been poisoned with potassium cyanide. The case was never solved, but it led to new guidelines for packaging over-the-counter products.


Music Therapy May Help Tinnutis

A novel form of music therapy may offer hope for people with chronic tinnutis, a constant ringing in the ears.

German researchers say the treatment could be used with other strategies to relieve the condition, which currently has no cure, according to the BBC. It’s said that up to 3 percent of the population have tinnutis severe enough to disrupt their quality of life.

Using the participants’ favorite music, the researchers removed notes that matched the frequency of the ringing in their ears. After listening to the altered music for a year, the 39 participants reported that their tinnitus had quieted.

“The theory behind the new technique is that removing the spectrum of noise associated with tinnitus from the music reduces activity in the brain relating to that frequency, alleviating the condition,” the BBC said.

The findings were reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Beef Recalled Because of E. Coli Concerns

Concerns about contamination with a strain of E. coli bacteria have led an Oklahoma-based company to voluntarily recall about 248,000 pounds of beef.

On its Web site, National Steak and Poultry says the beef products “could potentially be implicated in an outbreak” of illnesses related to E. coli, the Associated Press reported. This is the first recall in the firm’s 30-year history, it said.

The U.S. Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service noticed a link between non-intact steaks and a cluster of illnesses in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Washington, the AP said. Non-intact steaks include cuts that have been injected with flavoring or tenderized, processes that allow surface bacteria to get inside the beef.

The E. coli strain has caused large-scale outbreaks of potentially deadly illness.


Brain Blood Flow Controlled by Inner Ear: Study

A Harvard Medical School team has determined that the inner ear does more than control balance. Tiny organs deep within the ear also appear to alter blood flow to the brain, the researchers say.

From their study of 24 people, they concluded that this connection may have enabled early man to stand upright and still get blood pumped to the brain, the BBC said.

Using NASA tests designed for astronauts, the researchers assessed the balance organs, which are located deep inside bony chambers of the ear, and monitored blood flow through the body while the participants were tilting and spinning.

They reported their findings in the journal BMC Neuroscience, according to the BBC.

Dr. Jorge Serrador, who led the team, said the findings could potentially lead to new treatments for related conditions. For example, people who suffer from postural hypotension — meaning they faint or get dizzy spells when they stand up too quickly — might have poor brain blood flow related to an underlying inner ear problem, he said.

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