Health Highlights: Jan.30, 2012

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

New Partnership Targets Neglected Tropical Diseases

A group of international health organizations and pharmaceutical companies announced Monday that they’ve created a partnership to control or eliminate 10 deadly but neglected tropical diseases by the end of the decade.

The diseases targeted for eradication are: Guinea worm disease, sleeping sickness, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis and blinding trachoma. Those to be brought under control are: soil-transmitted helminthes, schistosomiasis, river blindness, Chagas disease and visceral leishmaniasis, the Wall Street Journal reported.

All 10 diseases flourish in tropical climates and impoverished areas and most are ancient diseases that have plagued humans for centuries. About 1.4 billion people worldwide are affected by neglected tropical diseases.

The partnership includes 13 pharmaceutical companies, the World Health Organization, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WSJ reported.


Create Commission to Study In Vitro Clinics: Gingrich

A commission should study the ethical issues relating to in vitro fertilization clinics in the United States, Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich said Sunday.

Infertile women go to the clinics to receive treatment and get pregnant. Large number of embryos are created at the clinics. Gingrich did not expand on his proposal for a commission, the Associated Press reported.

“If you have in vitro fertilization you are creating life. And therefore we should look seriously at what should the rules be for clinics that do that because they’re creating life,” Gingrich said outside a Baptist church in Florida.

Gingrich, who is campaigning for votes in Tuesday’s Florida primary, also said he opposes using leftover embryos from in vitro clinics for stem cell research, the AP reported.


FDA Detains Imported Orange Juice

Several shipments of orange juice from Canada and Brazil have been detained by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after it found traces of an illegal fungicide.

The orange juice contained small amounts of carbendazim, which is used to combat mold on orange trees. The fungicide is not approved for use in the U.S., the Associated Press reported.

Carbendazim is used in Brazil. No oranges are grown in Canada, but companies in Canada purchase orange juice products from Brazil and other countries and export them to the U.S.

Since it began testing for the fungicide earlier this month, the FDA has detained nine of 80 orange juice and orange juice concentrate shipments at the border, and importers have withdrawn to additional shipment, the AP reported.

The FDA started testing for carbendazim after Coca-Cola reported finding the fungicide in its own orange juice and competing orange juices.


Catholic Colleges Oppose Birth Control Rule

Many student health services at Catholic colleges in the United States refuse to prescribe or cover birth control, but they’re under increasing pressure to change that stance.

The Obama administration said this month that the new health care law requires insurance plans at Catholic institutions to cover birth control without co-payments for employees, and that may be extended to students, The New York Times reported.

The administration’s rule is based on an Institute of Medicine conclusion that birth control is not just a convenience, but is medically necessary “to ensure women’s health and well-being.”

Catholic organizations are fighting the rule because they say it would violate their beliefs and force them to finance behavior that contradicts their beliefs, The Times reported.


Prostate Cancer Found in 2,200-Year-Old Mummy

The discovery of prostate cancer in a 2,200-year-old Egyptian mummy suggests that the cancer was caused by genetics and not environmental factors, a researcher says.

The mummy was of a man who died in his forties and is the second-oldest known case of prostate cancer. The oldest is from a 2,700-year-old skeleton of a king in Russia, the Associated Press reported.

The team that studied the Egyptian mummy for two years included Salima Ikram, a professor from American University in Cairo.

“Living conditions in ancient times were very different; there were no pollutants or modified foods, which leads us to believe that the disease is not necessarily only linked to industrial factors,” she told the AP.