FDA Approves Test

For West Nile Virus

The Food and Drug Administration approved yesterday the first test to screen blood, organ and tissue donations for West Nile virus.

The test has been widely used since 2003 at blood banks on an experimental basis. The FDA's action yesterday does not appear to significantly widen the test's availability. But it may improve testing of organ donations for the disease, an FDA spokeswoman said.

The test, the Procleix WNV Assay, was developed by Gen-Probe Inc. and is marketed by Chiron Corp. Since the test was introduced, U.S. blood banks have detected and removed 1,600 donations infected with West Nile. At least 30 people contracted West Nile from infected blood transfusions, and nine died, the FDA said.

Earliest Birdlike Animal

Had Feet Like Dinosaurs

A new analysis of archaeopteryx, the earliest known birdlike animal, shows it had feet like dinosaurs -- adding weight to the belief that today's birds are descendants of mighty ancient carnivores.

Many scientists consider archaeopteryx the first bird, because it had wings and was the first fossil found with feathers. Details have been lacking on the animals, however, because only a few fossils have been found. The new one, reported today in the journal Science, is the 10th and one of the most complete.

Contrary to what had been thought, the new fossil shows that the first toe was not reversed in archaeopteryx, as is the case in modern birds, said a team led by Gerald Mayr of Research Institute Schenkenberg in Germany.

Lack of the reversed toe would hamper the animal's ability to perch as modern birds do. However, its second toe could be extended, like those of theropod -- beast-footed -- dinosaurs, a group that included Tyrannosaurus rex.

3 Anemia Drugs May

Harm Red Blood Cells

Johnson & Johnson and Amgen Inc.'s anemia drugs Aranesp, Epogen and Procrit may have a risk of damaging red blood cells, known as aplasia, and other complications, U.S. regulators said yesterday.

The Food and Drug Administration issued an e-mail alert about changes to the prescribing information for the three drugs. Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, N.J., advised doctors to discontinue the medications in patients who develop signs of aplasia.

Most Americans Are Not

Exercising Hard Enough

Most Americans do not break enough of a sweat when it comes to exercise, according to new federal study showing that most adults failed to exercise at the minimum recommended level in 2003.

Only 45.9 percent of those 18 and older met the government's guide of at least 30 minutes of brisk walking or other moderate exercise five days a week or at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three days a week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Running, aerobics and heavy yardwork are examples of vigorous activity.

Almost one-fifth of those who responded to the CDC telephone survey were classified as inactive -- they had not exercised at a moderate or vigorous level for at least 10 minutes per week.

-- From News Services