Friday, October 21, 2011

The Morning Drill: October 21, 2011

A collection of dentistry and health related links/comments for your day.

UCLA gets $2.8 million from NIH to develop saliva test to diagnose Sjögren's syndrome

In August, tennis star Venus Williams withdrew from the U.S. Open, saying she was suffering from fatigue and other symptoms related to Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that results in the loss of the ability to produce saliva and tears. Her announcement focused public attention on this malady, which affects nearly 4 million Americans.
While women are nine times more likely than men to develop Sjögren's, the disorder affects virtually every racial and ethnic group. Most patients develop symptoms after age 40, including dry eyes, dry mouth and often joint pain and chronic fatigue. And because of their paucity of saliva and the antibacterial chemicals it contains, patients may also develop tooth decay and cavities.
While much is known about the symptoms of Sjögren's, the disease is complex and poorly understood, and in some cases, it can take more than six years to be diagnosed.
The UCLA School of Dentistry has now received a $2.8 million grant from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes of Health, to support a multi-center clinical trial of a diagnostic test that uses patients' saliva to determine whether they have Sjögren's syndrome. This simple, non-invasive test will permit a diagnosis within minutes, rather than the weeks currently required when using blood or other tissue samples.
The project will be led by Dr. David Wong, associate dean for research and the Felix and Mildred Yip Endowed Professor in Dentistry at the UCLA School of Dentistry. For Dr. Wong and his colleagues, who have been conducting research on using saliva as a diagnostic tool for biomarkers of oral cancer, early-stage pancreatic cancer and other maladies for several years, this is an important step in moving from the research realm to actual clinical trials and, eventually, to use by medical and dental practitioners.
Dental care in big demand at free LA health clinic
Avery Shapiro has had tooth pain for several years. Pat Morris' dental insurance wouldn't cover the tab for a filling. Chenell Bass had to stop driving because her eyesight got so weak.

Such stories were typical among the first 1,200 people filing into a huge free medical clinic that opened Thursday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

The four-day clinic, organized by Los Angeles-based nonprofit CareNow, is expected to draw 5,000 uninsured and underinsured patients who spent hours in line Monday to obtain wristbands to enter the event. Some even camped out overnight.

It's the fourth such event that CareNow has organized around Los Angeles County with the help of 800 medical professionals volunteering their services, and supplies and equipment donated by manufacturers.

"We hope to keep doing these until we're obsolete," said CareNow President Don Manelli. "There are 2 million uninsured in L.A. County. We're doing what we can do."

At all the clinics, dental treatment is the overwhelming request followed by vision care. "If you have a toothache, there's no ER to go to," Manelli said. "About 60 percent ask for dental care."
Board Votes To Remove Fluoride From Lawrenceburg Water Supply
Members of the board of directors for the Lawrenceburg Utility Systems voted unanimously Thursday evening to discontinue the practice of adding fluoride to the local water supply.

Board members have discussed the matter during recent meetings. Utility systems near and far have opted recently to take this same action. Leaders in Waynesboro, Hohenwald and Spring Hill have recently made the same decision.

The practice of adding fluoride to public water systems began in 1945 in order to help prevent tooth decay. Since fluoride is now available through different sources, such as toothpaste and rinses, many governments have opted to discontinue the practice.

During Thursday’s meeting, board members considered a letter of recommendation submitted by State Representative Joey Hensley, M.D. Hensley recommended that the practice be discontinued.

With one board member absent, representatives voted unanimously to make the change. It is expected to result in a cost savings to the water department of approximately $22,000 per year.
Talk of treaty ban on mercury concerns scientists
Scientists are warning officials negotiating a global treaty on mercury that banning the deadly chemical completely would be dangerous for public health because of the chemical's use in vaccines.

The ban option is one of several proposals on the table for a meeting later this month in Nairobi, but a final treaty isn't expected until 2013.

According to the World Health Organization, mercury is one of the top 10 chemicals of public health concern and is highly toxic. Most of the worry is centered on mercury emissions from burning coal, gold mining and people eating mercury-tainted fish.

Mercury in small amounts is also found in many products including light bulbs, batteries and thermometers. WHO advises such products to be phased out, suggesting for example, that health systems switch to digital thermometers instead.

The problem is that a proposed ban might include thiomersal, a mercury compound used to prevent contamination and extend the shelf life of vaccines, many scientists say. It is used in about 300 million shots worldwide, against diseases including flu, tetanus, hepatitis B, diptheria and meningitis.

"Not being able to use mercury is not a viable option," said David Wood, a WHO vaccines expert.

Wood said there isn't a viable alternative to thiomersal at the moment. If banned, pharmaceuticals would likely have to switch to preservative-free vaccines, which would complicate the supply chain and vaccination campaigns in poor countries, since the injections would have a much shorter shelf life. Costs would also spike since manufacturers would need to reconfigure their factories.

Thiomersal has mostly been removed from childhood vaccines in the U.S. and Canada. In some European countries, including Norway and Sweden, manufacturers have been encouraged to make thiomersal-free vaccines — and no other uses of mercury as a medical preservative are allowed.

Fears about thiomersal in vaccines were first raised after a flawed medical study in 1998 linked a common childhood injection to autism. But numerous studies since have found no sign the mercury compound is risky.

Experts hope countries won't go overboard in their attempts to control the substance.
Enjoy your morning!

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