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Researchers Say New Heart Failure Drug Could Save Lives


Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers say a new heart failure drug could save lives by lowering the mortality rate of heart failure.

According to the study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the new drug, called LCZ696, showed improved results. The drug combines valsartan, which has long been used in heart failure treatment, with sacubitril, a previously unstudied medicine for the treatment of high blood pressure.

Those who received the LCZ696 had 20 percent better year-to-year survival rates than those who took a medicine that is part of standard heart failure care.

Those same patients also experienced improved symptoms. Still, the FDA did not approve any changes to the standard heart failure treatment, even though the study was stopped early due to overwhelming positive results.

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WHO Releases Ebola Roadmap, Update on Outbreak


Dr. Richard Besser/ABC News(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- The World Health Organization on Friday issued a Roadmap Situation Report on the ongoing Ebola outbreak that contained data on the spread thus far and the international response.

Thus far, the WHO says, the total number of confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in West Africa number 3,052, with 1,546 deaths. The report details the cases found in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, though isolated cases have been noted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Senegal.

Last week, the WHO says, saw the highest weekly increase in Ebola cases in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. That figure "highlights the urgent need to reinforce control measures and increase capacity for case management."

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Ebola Outbreak Spreads: Senegal Reports Its First Case


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Senegalese Health Ministry has reported its first Ebola case, a Guinean student who had been in contact with sick people in Guinea and was later hospitalized in Senegal.

Earlier this week, the Democratic Republic of Congo -- 800 miles from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa -- reported 24 suspected Ebola cases, including 13 deaths. None of the patients or their close contacts had traveled to West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

“At this time, it is believed that the outbreak in [the Democratic Republic of Congo] is unrelated to the ongoing outbreak in West Africa,” the agency said in a statement, adding that samples from the Congo cases are currently being tested for the virus.

The first known case in Congo occurred in a pregnant woman who became ill after butchering a “bush animal” that her husband killed, according to the WHO. She died on Aug. 11. Health care workers who tended to her, including a doctor, two nurses and a ward boy, developed similar symptoms and died, the agency said.

Ebola was first discovered in the Congo in 1976 and is named for the Ebola River.

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Utah Woman Injured After Drinking Sweet Tea Laced with Lye Speaks, Calls for Change


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- The Utah woman who was poisoned after being served tea lace with lye said on Friday that dangerous chemicals should have colors or markers that ensure they can't be mistaken for food ingredients.

Jan Harding spoke at a Friday news conference. "It's not my nature to be made at people, it's not my nature to be vengeful," she said, adding that she holds no ill will against the restaurant worker who poured the lye into her beverage.

She may have been saved by the fact that she was drinking through a straw, meaning only a small amount of the drink -- and the lye -- went down her throat before she felt the effects.

Lye is used as a heavy-duty cleaner. Police believe an employee accidentally mixed the cleaner into the tea.

Harding was immediately rushed to a hospital with severe burns to her mouth and throat. She was the only individual injured, employees dumped the vat of iced tea after her injury.

"I asked God if I wasn't going to make it through this...if he would send an angel to help me with...because it was just so hard," Harding said Friday.

She hopes that the restaurant industry will take action in response to her accident.

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Experimental Ebola Drug Shows Positive Signs in Animal Study


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study tested the efficacy of the experimental drug ZMapp on treating Ebola-infected monkeys, with potentially promising results.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature, a small group of monkeys, infected with the Ebola virus, were given either the ZMapp antibody cocktail or another antibody combination. Of the six monkeys given the ZMapp cocktail, all six were cured.

Researchers note that the study is just the very beginning, as the study involved a small sample size and animal subjects. The Ebola strain the monkeys were infected with was also a different strain than the current outbreak in West Africa.

Because of the nature of the study, it cannot provide insight into whether Americans Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly were aided by having been given the ZMapp cocktail.

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Apps Aim to Prevent Sexual Assault, Rape on Campus


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A slew of new apps aim to prevent assault and rape on college campuses, under the assumption that students are never too far from their smartphones.

Two are in development at the Integrated Innovation Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. One, SPOT a Problem, is actually a party-planning app that lets students upload guest lists, photos and a playlist, while also keeping tabs on suspicious activity.

It works with a flexible, smart wristband that the party host wears, and that bracelet lights up when someone at the party sends an alert. The message can be about a neighbor complaint, a police officer who showed up or a potential sexual assault.

"We've all been at an event or at a party and seen something that didn't quite sit right with us, but we didn't have the tool to be able to respond to that," said Kosa Goucher-Lambert, a Ph.D .student in engineering who worked on the app. "That's the gap we wanted to address."

Students can ping the host to point out a problem, and the data all disappears when the party is over.

Another app in the works is called NightOwl, which also aims to get bystanders who see potential sexual assaults involved. That one works by alerting friends of a partygoer who might be in danger, so they know to check on that person.

Donna Sturgess, the Integrated Innovation Institute's executive in residence, worked on the app concepts with the students, and says she hopes they'll be built and available for the public to download within the next year.

As many as 1 in 5 female college students are assaulted, the White House has said, but many organizations say the figure is higher.

"This is not a social problem that we're going to sit around and wait for other people to fix," Sturgess said.

But many apps that aim to reduce sexual assault are already available to students. Some colleges have partnerships with one called LiveSafe, which lets students send photos or text messages to the nearest police station if they see something shady. It also gives students an easy way to tell friends where they are, using location data, and tracks crimes on campus.

Loyola University in Chicago released the app I'm Here For You last fall. It provides students information about on-campus resources as well as city services to report dating violence, stalking and assault.

And the app Circle of 6, which emerged from a White House challenge, is also popular among schools. It uses GPS to pin down users' location and alerts a user’s inner circle if there's trouble. With just a couple of taps, users can send a text message like, "Come and get me. I need help getting home safely" to a friend, along with their location data.

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Gamblers and Pigeons Don't Know When to Fold Them


iStock/Thinkstock(COVENTRY, England) -- One of the slang meanings of “pigeon” is someone who can be easily duped.

Perhaps then it’s no surprise that British researchers have determined that people who like to gamble exhibit the same tendencies as pigeons when it comes to decisions that involve risk.

Psychology expert Dr. Elliot Ludvig of the University of Warwick asserts that “Both humans and pigeons were shown to be less risk averse for high rewards then they were for low rewards and this is linked to our past memories and experiences of making risky decisions.”

Never mind that human have brains that are so much more advanced than any other species. According to Ludvig, the same mental processes drive gamblers and pigeons when they’re faced with risk.

So why does this happen?  Ludvig says it may have to do with “shared common ancestry or similar evolutionary pressures.”

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Parents and Babies Should Live Life on the Babble


iStock/Thinkstock(IOWA CITY, Iowa) -- Before babies learn to speak, they babble, which is actually a form of baby-speak.

Although parents think babbling is cute, it’s also an opportunity for mom and dad to communicate with their infants and consequently, accelerate their vocalization.

A new study out of the University of Iowa and Indiana University says that it’s all about how a parent responds to baby that holds the key to facilitating their language and communication.

Researcher Julie Gros-Louis says 12 mothers and their eight-month-old children were observed interacting over a period of six months and the chief finding was that moms who actively try to understand what their babies say and respond in kind will boost developmentally advanced vocalizations.

Furthermore, babies with interested moms also directed more of their babbling to them.

On the other hand, mothers who weren’t as engaged and tried to divert their infants' attention away from babbling did not improve their babies’ language and communications skills as quickly.

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Introverts Spend Most Time on Facebook


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(HUNTSVILLE, Ala.) -- You're never going to get back all the time you spend on Facebook but most users probably don’t care, especially those who log on longer than anyone else.

Dr. Pavica Sheldon of the University of Alabama in Huntsville conducted research to find out who spends the most time on the social media website. Turns out it’s not extroverts, narcissists or those who post a million photos of themselves.

Sheldon contends it's people who are considered introverts who are most addicted to Facebook at least in terms of time spent on the site, often because it can help them to forget their loneliness.

Even so, they’ll reveal less personal information, including photos and subsequently, won’t reap the same relationship benefits as others.

Sheldon calls it the “rich get richer” hypothesis, in that people who are more socially outgoing in real life also tend to keep those relationships going online while forming new ones.

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How the HIV Cure That Wasn't May Hold a Positive Lesson After All


Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say that even though a baby in Mississippi who was initially thought to have been cured of HIV later relapsed, there may have been important information gleaned from the case.

The unnamed girl, dubbed the "Mississippi baby," was born to an HIV-positive mother in 2010. After being treated with high doses of antiretroviral medication, she was deemed cured, but four years later, detectable levels of HIV were found in her blood. Still, researchers said, they learned from that.

The girl's relapse helped to support the theory that CD4 memory T cells, a specific type of immune cell, harbors the latent virus. Potential treatments, they note, could be aimed at reducing the number of those specific cells.

The article, published in the journal Science, also looked at two other patients who had been deemed "cured" before relapsing.

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Obese Mothers Can Beat Baby Weight Using Conventional Weight-Loss Methods


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers say that obese women, who have even more reason to try to limit weight gain during pregnancy, can do so by using conventional weight-loss methods.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, looked at 114 obese pregnant women. Half of the subjects received one counseling session on keeping a healthy diet, while the other half attended weekly support meetings and behavioral and dietary counseling, and kept a food and exercise journal. After 34 weeks of pregnancy, the women in the latter group had gained just 11 pounds on average -- at the lower end of the recommended weight gain for obese mothers by the Institute of Medicine.

Women in the control group, on the contrary, had gained an average of 18 pounds through 34 weeks.

Limiting weight gain among obese mothers can help to limit both complications during delivery and the future risk of obesity for the child.

The study found that participants in the more intense intervention group weighed six pounds less two weeks after giving birth than they did when they entered the study, while those in the control group weighed three pounds more. Those in the intervention group also were significantly less likely to give birth to babies deemed large for gestational age.

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Why You Could Be Eating Trans Fat Without Knowing It


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Experts say that even if the nutritional label on your food may not indicate that it contains trans fat, it may still be leading you to eat trans fat.

Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in their study, published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, that a number of products featured misleading nutritional labels. Researchers looked at the ingredients and labels of 4,340 packaged foods and found that many items contained partially hydrogenated oils, which are themselves trans fats. Yet, 84 percent of those items that contained partially hydrogenated oils claimed to contain zero grams of trans fat.

The reason for the misleading labels is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration policy, which allows food manufacturers to label products as having zero grams of trans fat if the serving size contains less than half a gram.

For example, even though a package of Chips Ahoy may be labeled as having no trans fat, for every three cookies you eat, you could be eating up to 0.5 grams of trans fat.

In 2013, the FDA issued a statement saying that partially hydrogenated oils should no longer be generally recognized as safe.

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Fictional Tearjerkers Can Be Powerful as True Stories


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Whether they want to admit it or not, just about everybody at one time has gotten a little choked up watching a movie that pulls on the heart strings.

However, the assumption that a true story carries more of an emotional wallop than a fictional tale is wrong, according to researchers at Brandeis University and NYU.

For instance, people who want to avoid getting upset may decide to read a fictional book filled with tragedy because they figure it won’t affect them nearly as much as a tragic true-life story.

Yet, what the researchers discovered was that “fictional nature does not alter the impact of the tragic story, leaving them more emotionally distraught than if they had read the true story instead.”

If that indeed is the case, then movie producers and book publishers should greenlight more fictional stories.

Although sales of true stories may be stronger, the researchers contend realism “does not necessarily increase satisfaction.”

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US to Test Ebola Vaccine Amid Growing Outbreak in West Africa


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. scientists will begin testing an Ebola vaccine in humans next week, health officials announced Thursday. But it could take 11 months to learn whether the vaccine is safe as the virus’ toll in West Africa continues to rise.

More than 3,000 people have contracted Ebola since March, a number projected to swell to 20,000 in the next six months, according to the World Health Organization.

The virus has killed at least 1,500 people in Ebola Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

The experimental vaccine, co-developed by the National Institutes of Health and GlaxoSmithKline, “performed extremely well in protecting nonhuman primates from Ebola infection,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIH’s infectious disease branch, said.

Now it will be tested in 20 healthy adults to make sure it’s safe and effective in mounting an immune response.

“A vaccine will ultimately be an important tool in the prevention effort,” Fauci said in a statement, adding that the phase 1 study is “the first step in a long process.”

The 20 subjects will be followed for 48 weeks but initial safety results are expected later this year, according to an NIH statement.

The vaccine works by delivering fragments of genetic material from two Ebola strains into a healthy person’s cells. The cells then transform that genetic material into a protein found on the virus, and that protein triggers an immune response that should fend off the infection.

“It is important to know that the Ebola genetic material contained in the investigational vaccine cannot cause a vaccinated individual to become infected with Ebola,” the NIH said in a statement.

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What Ebola Survivors Reveal About the Virus, ZMapp


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The outbreak spreading through West Africa has a 53 percent fatality rate, according to the World Health Organization, meaning 47 percent of people survive the gruesome infection. And experts say those people could hold clues to Ebola’s weakness.

“There’s something to be gained from understanding why certain people survive,” said Thomas Geisbert, a virologist studying Ebola at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.

But studying survivors is a tall order in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria --  countries simultaneously plagued by Ebola and a dearth of medical infrastructure. “The number one priority for health care workers in this chaotic situation is stopping the outbreak, not a scientific study looking at survivors,” Geisbert said.

No one knows why some people recover from Ebola, but there are theories. It could be that they have a smaller viral load -- fewer deadly pathogens streaming through their bodies. It could also be that their immune systems are more adept at attacking the virus, which uses spike-like protrusions to invade cells and replicate. The immune response theory is supported by studies of Zmapp, the experimental Ebola drug given to American aid workers Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol.

The drug is a cocktail of three synthetic antibodies -- immune proteins that attack the virus’ cell-splitting spike, according to Geisbert.

“It’s a very specific response,” Geisbert said, explaining that antibodies that target other parts of the virus are thought to be less effective at slowing it down.

But no one knows whether ZMapp, which has only been tested in monkeys, helped Brantly and Writebol survive the virus. Of the six people known to have received it, four have lived and two have died. Brantly also received blood from an Ebola survivor -- blood that likely contained natural antibodies to the virus.

A 2009 study of blood samples collected during three Ebola outbreaks in Gabon found that antibody levels peaked 30 days after exposure and “declined slowly over several years.” But again, there’s no way to know if the blood helped Brantly.

A CDC study of blood samples collected during a 2000 Ebola outbreak in Uganda found that people who survived tended to have smaller viral loads and altered levels of immune biomarkers compared to people who perished. “That’s valuable information because it gives you insight into the immunobiology of the disease,” said Geisbert. “Then you can try to dissect what it means and look at treatments or interventions that mimic the response of a survivor.”

Geisbert said the best way to stop the current outbreak is “good old-fashioned epidemiology and outbreak control,” and the best way to prevent future outbreaks is a vaccine.

The first phase 1 safety study of an Ebola vaccine is set to start next week, the National Institutes of Health announced Thursday. “I really hope that the next time we’re talking about this, those vaccines are across the finish line,” Geisbert said.

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