U.S. Is Nearly Free Of Measles, CDC Says

The United States has all but stamped out measles, recording only 100 cases last year--the lowest number on record--with most of the infections brought into the country from abroad, the government said yesterday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said all but 29 of those cases involved, directly or indirectly, people who were infected in other countries.

The numbers suggest that measles has joined the ranks of smallpox, polio, diphtheria and other diseases that have been effectively wiped out in the United States.

A measles vaccine was developed in 1963, and state laws require children to be vaccinated before they enter school. Officials estimate 90 percent of children are immunized by age 2.

Measles still kills roughly 1 million people worldwide each year. About half of those deaths occur in central Africa.

Even in the United States, the disease surged between 1989 and 1991, infecting 55,000 Americans and killing 120. Researchers said the outbreak was fueled by foreign carriers infecting preschool-age children who had not been immunized and youngsters who did not develop immunity from a single dose of the vaccine.

Now health officials recommend two doses of the vaccine, something required by more than half the states.

New Treatment Appears To Cure Malaria in Mice

Scientists have discovered a possible new drug for malaria, an antibiotic that seems to cure mice by attacking the disease in a different manner than today's treatments.

There's no way to know yet if the antibiotic, fosmidomycin, will help people with malaria. But new treatments are urgently needed. Malaria kills up to 3 million people a year and sickens another 300 million. Spread by mosquitoes, the malaria parasite is evolving a resistance to current medications.

German scientists discovered an enzyme present in the malaria parasite that appears crucial to how the parasite synthesizes hormones and other substances.

The antibiotic fosmidomycin shuts down the enzyme, called "DOXP reductoisomerase," in bacteria. So, lead researcher Hassan Jomaa of Justus-Liebig University and colleagues tested whether it also would target the enzyme in the malaria parasite.

They fed fosmidomycin to mice with malaria and cured the rodents.

Fosmidomycin was developed by a Japanese company in the late 1970s, and testing showed that it was safe for people, Jomaa said. But it has never been sold because it did not seem to offer a benefit over other antibiotics, he said.

The downside: Fosmidomycin dissipates in the body very quickly, so--if it proves useful to people--repeated doses throughout the day would be needed.