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Health Highlights: Dec. 6, 2006

The companies did not say how much the program will cost, theAPreported.

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Scientists Find Potential 'Achilles' Heel' in Bird-Flu Virus

U.S. scientists say they may have found the "Achilles' heel" of the H5N1 bird-flu virus and other influenza strains. This weak point may offer a target for new drugs to fight the viruses, the researchers say in a report to be published Thursday in the journalNature.

The potential vulnerability is a loop in the long, flexible protein tail that's essential for flu virus replication. A single mutation in the amino building blocks that comprise this loop is enough to stop the virus from replicating,Agence France Pressereported.

"We know from previous genetic studies that this tail loop is almost identical across strains of influenza A, so drugs that target the tail have a high potential of being effective across multiple strains, including the H5N1 strains," research team leader Yizhi Jane Tao, of Rice University in Houston, said in a prepared statement.

"Such new antivirals are especially needed at the moment as some H5N1 viruses are resistant to the flu drug Tamiflu," Tao noted.

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U.S. Urged to Ban Children's Jewelry Containing Lead

The United States should ban children's jewelry that contains lead, says the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an independent federal regulator responsible for overseeing the safety of consumer products.

The CPSC staff said Tuesday that the commission should prohibit the manufacture, sale and importation of toy jewelry that contains more than .06 percent lead by weight, theAssociated Pressreported.

Currently, most children's products with more than .06 percent lead are only subject to a recall. By prohibiting toy jewelry with that much lead, the CPSC could fine companies that knowingly make, sell, or import such products, said CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson.


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