Overuse of Broad-Spectrum Antibiotics Spurs Warning

Doctors are being more careful about prescribing antibiotics for common ailments, but when they do, they are turning too often to powerful new superdrugs, a new study says.

The overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics for minor infections poses a serious health threat because it could speed bacterial resistance to valuable and potentially lifesaving drugs, according to a study in today's edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine. The study reviewed the prescribing behavior of physicians from 1991 to 1999.

Researchers looked at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from outpatient clinics and found that the number of antibiotic prescriptions doctors wrote decreased roughly 17 percent from 1991 to 1999. However, prescriptions of broad-spectrum antibiotics roughly doubled -- from 24 percent to 48 percent for adults and from 24 percent to 40 percent for children.

Cell Therapy May Aid Patients With Congestive Heart Failure

Some people virtually immobilized by congestive heart failure dramatically improved and even returned to work after doctors insert new cells into their severely damaged pumping muscle, researchers said yesterday.

The experiment is the latest attempt at cell therapy, an approach still early in development that shows enticing hints that it can restore life to stunned and scarred areas of weakly beating hearts.

Several teams around the world are using a variety of approaches, involving either primitive bone marrow cells or immature skeletal muscle cells to refurbish damaged heart muscle.

While it is still too soon to say how well the approach works -- or even whether it does at all -- doctors say they have been impressed with apparent reversals of severe heart failure after the experiments.

Dr. Emerson Perin of the Texas Heart Institute, who presented data on a small study with no comparison or control group, said he was amazed when one of his patients who had not been able to leave his home told him he had just climbed eight flights of stairs.

Pap Smears May Include New Test for Cervical Cancer

Millions more women may soon be tested for the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer, after a government ruling yesterday that allows testing for the virus to become part of every regular Pap smear for women over age 30.

Women will have to choose if they want to add the HPV test, which costs roughly $50.

Women whose Pap smear shows no signs of cancer and who are free of the HPV virus can safely wait three years to be rechecked, according to new guidance being distributed in wake of the Food and Drug Administration's ruling yesterday. Women who don't opt for HPV testing, or who show signs of the infection, will need more frequent Paps.

"For some women, the advantage of being screened less frequently will be a big advantage. Others will want to stay with the tried-and-true," said Mark Schiffman of the National Cancer Institute, which worked with several cancer organizations to draw up early screening recommendations.

-- From News Services