Positive social support from a spouse could have negative consequences, new research shows

first_imgShare Share on Facebook Email Pinterest LinkedIncenter_img Offering your spouse what you believe to be positive support could have negative physiological effects on them, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.A team of researchers from Binghamton University recruited sixty-five married couples and had them engage in two interactions in which each spouse selected a discussion topic about a stressor external to their marriage (e.g. poor physical fitness, the desire to get a new job). Before and after the interactions, spouses separately completed questions about their expectations and appraisals of their partner’s responsiveness during the discussion. The researchers took saliva samples from each spouse and measured for cortisol–a hormone that helps regulate stress in the body–at the beginning of the study and after each discussion. The most consistent finding was that observable behaviors when support was given and received during discussions of wives’ stressors were associated with wives’ perceptions of their husbands’ responsiveness and wives’ changes in cortisol.“What we found, interestingly enough, was that cortisol was really only affected in wives but not in husbands, and only in wives’ discussions,” said Hayley Fivecoat, a former Binghamton University student who published the results in her dissertation. “For one, we did find that when husbands showed more positive behaviors while they were giving support, wives’ cortisol actually went down. Interestingly, we found that when wives showed more negative behavior while their partner was giving them support, their cortisol also went down. That was unexpected. We found that when wives showed more positive behavior while they were receiving support, their cortisol actually went up–they showed signs of more physiological arousal.” Share on Twitter While communication skills are often the focus of many clinical interventions, the study suggests that skill in delivering and receiving social support (by using more “positive” support behaviors) is not consistently linked to actual reductions in cortisol, nor increases in perceived partner responsiveness, said Fivecoat. In fact, more positive behaviors may have unintended negative consequences, and classically defined negative behaviors can sometimes have positive effects.“Say a husband is giving advice to his wife when she has a problem. Even though giving advice is a constructive thing to do, it may not be helpful to her at the moment; maybe she just wants someone to listen to her,” said Nicole Cameron, assistant professor of psychology at Binghamton University and co-researcher. “Or maybe there could be the opposite, where the husband is being more of a supportive listener but the wife really wants someone to give her some advice. All of those things are positive, but one is going to have a better effect than the other. What this tells me is that social support is more idiosyncratic and specific to the person and the problem.”In helping couples support each other, clinicians may work together with couples to identify the ways they prefer to be supported in order to capitalize on the positive effects of perceived partner responsiveness on relationships, said Fivecoat. This may be a more fruitful approach than advocating for more general positive and negative communication behaviors while giving and receiving support.“Perhaps clinicians can highlight the positive intentions of support givers to elicit greater perceptions of understanding, validation and caring from supportive partners. By highlighting intentions of support givers, the effects of more positive behaviors could be enhanced, and the costs of more negative behaviors could be mitigated,” said Fivecoat. “Ultimately, a clearer understanding of social support processes, including what is effective in reducing physiological arousal, will allow couples to capitalize on the association between social support and marriage, and reduce the impact of stress on health.”The researchers plan on looking further into the data and publishing more findings in the future.“I think that there is a lot of research that still needs to be done, because not everybody gets out of counseling feeling better,” said Cameron. “So studying what makes people feel better or feel differently is important, and using hormones as a marker of the change is interesting because it goes further than words–you really can see how the body reacts to discussions. If we can figure out how to use these markers, we probably can really improve our knowledge about counseling and couple communication.”Other Binghamton researchers to contribute to this research include Matthew Johnson, chair and professor of psychology; and Richard Mattson, associate professor of psychology.Cameron’s dissertation was titled “Spousal social support is associated with perceptions of partner responsiveness and fluctuations in cortisol for married women.”last_img read more

Authoritarian aggression and group-based dominance distinguished Trump supporters from other Republicans in 2016

first_imgPinterest Share on Twitter Results from four scientific surveys indicate that supporters of Donald Trump in 2016 were more likely than supporters of other Republican candidates to exhibit signs of authoritarian aggression and endorse group-based dominance. The research was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.“Trump’s success in the early primary season was surprising to many people, and I was interested in understanding his mainstream appeal to potential voters. It was an interesting cultural moment for America, but also an interesting moment for the testing of scientific theory,” said study author Jake Womick of the University of Missouri, Columbia. “Before starting this research, I had observed a lot of speculation in the news, and in personal conversations, about Trump and authoritarianism. At the time, I was already working on several projects studying the relationship between right-wing authoritarianism and well-being. So, I realized that I was well positioned to empirically address the question of whether Trump held authoritarian appeal.” LinkedIn Share on Facebookcenter_img Email Share “The question of whether or not Trump was especially likely to appeal to voters with authoritarian dispositions could not be answered during the general election, because supporters of Republican candidates generally score higher on right-wing authoritarianism,” Womick said.“As such, it was important to conduct our research in a way that facilitated comparisons within each political party. So, it was the Trump campaign’s early success that really provided a fruitful opportunity to formally test theoretical relationships between authoritarian personality traits and real-world behavior.”The study examined two ideological traits: Right Wing Authoritarianism, a personality trait that describes the tendency to submit to political authority and be hostile towards out-groups, and Social Dominance Orientation, a measure of a person’s preference for inequality among social groups.The researchers conducted four studies throughout the course of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, which included a total of 5,255 individuals. They found that submissiveness to authorities, adherence to social norms, and anti-egalitarianism attitudes did not distinguish Trump supporters from supporters of other Republican candidates. But the researchers found that aggressiveness directed against outgroups and group-based dominance was more common among Trump supporters compared to backers of other Republican candidates.“Researchers have long been interested in psychological features that predict support for different political candidates. This question has almost always been considered in the context of support for Republican vs. Democratic candidates. And, the research has consistently shown that right-wing authoritarianism is associated with support for Republicans over support for Democrats,” Womick told PsyPost.“What was interesting about our current research was that we were able to measure variables that predicted support for one Republican candidate over other Republican candidates. In this way, we were able to test whether or not Trump was truly an atypical candidate for President. With regard to general right-wing authoritarianism, and anti-egalitarianism, he was not atypical.”“Overall right-wing authoritarianism and anti-egalitarianism did not distinguish support for Trump from that for other Republican candidates (including Cruz, Rubio, Carson, and Bush). Rather, support for Trump was, in a unique way, associated with authoritarian aggression, and group-based dominance,” Womick explained.In other words, Trump supporters were more likely to agree with statements such as “Some groups of people are simply inferior to other groups”, “What our country needs instead of more ‘civil rights’ is a good stiff dose of law and order”, and “Some groups of people must be kept in their place.”“So, compared to supporters of other Republicans, Trump supporters were more likely to endorse group-based hierarchies, and the use of violent means to maintain them. In many ways, Trump’s campaign was consistent with these themes. While those themes were shocking to some Americans, they were consistent with the values of his supporters,” Womick noted.The study — like all research — includes some limitations.“As with any psychological research, there are many important caveats,” Womick explained. “One of the most important things to consider about this research is that we cannot conclude, based on these data, that Trump is an authoritarian. We can only say, with a relatively high level of certainty, that authoritarian aggression, and group-based dominance predicted support for Trump in the 2016 primaries. So, it is important to realize that this research is about Trump supporters, not the President.” “Another caveat is that this was correlational research, so we cannot really speak to the causal effects of whether or not authoritarian aggression and group-based dominance caused people to support Trump. We only know that they were related to support for him during the Primaries, over other Republican and Democratic candidates.”“I think the last major caveat I would note is that the models we ran, predicting Trump support from authoritarianism and social dominance orientation only explained a portion of the variance in Trump support,” Womick added. “That means that there are other existing factors that we did not measure, and did not include in our models, that would help explain why people supported Trump over other Republican candidates.”The study, “Group-Based Dominance and Authoritarian Aggression Predict Support for Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election“, was authored Jake Womick, Tobias Rothmund, Flavio Azevedo, Laura A. King, and John T. Jost.last_img read more

Study: Psychopaths are attracted to other psychopaths

first_imgShare New psychology research suggests that most people do not view psychopathic personality traits as particularly desirable in a romantic partner. But the study also provides evidence that psychopaths are more attracted to other psychopaths.“To a large extent, our findings support a ‘like attracts like’ hypothesis for psychopathic traits,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in the Journal of Personality.“Until recently there has been scant systematic evidence bearing on the question of whether people are especially attracted to psychopathic individuals, and if so, which personality traits may account for such attraction,” they said. Share on Facebook LinkedIn In the study, 696 participants were asked to imagine a good-looking young man or woman, and then construct his or her personality from a list of 70 traits.The researchers found that the participants preferred Factor 1 psychopathic traits (such as superficial charm, manipulativeness, and lack of empathy) over Factor 2 traits (such as impulsiveness and irresponsibility). But, overall, romantic interest in psychopathic traits was low on average.However, participants who themselves scored higher on a measure of psychopathy tended to prefer higher levels of psychopathic traits in their ideal romantic partner.In addition, male participants tended to express more interest in traits related to psychopathy and other personality disorders than female participants.The study includes some limitations. It is unclear, for example, if people’s choices in a hypothetical dating scenario reflect their actual dating choices in real-life situations.“Our findings suggest that although absolute preferences for psychopathic traits are low on average, individuals with marked psychopathic features and [personality disorders] features more generally are more inclined than others to endorse a romantic preference for psychopathic individuals, at least in the abstract,” the researchers said.The study, “Do Psychopathic Birds of a Feather Flock Together? Psychopathic Personality Traits and Romantic Preferences“, was authored by Ashley L. Watts, Jessica C. Rohr, Katherine L. McCauley, Sarah Francis Smith, Kristin Landfield Howe, and Scott O. Lilienfeld.center_img Share on Twitter Pinterest Emaillast_img read more

Playing physically interactive video games is associated with lucid dreaming, study finds

first_imgShare New research indicates that a certain type of gaming is associated with experiencing lucid dreams, in which the dreamer is aware they’re dreaming while it’s still happening. Sometimes, people who are lucid dreaming can even play an active role in their dreams — an experience known as control dreaming.The study was published in the journal Dreaming.Marc Sestir, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Central Arkansas, and Jennifer Peszka, an associate professor of psychology at Hendrix College, became interested in the connection between video game play and lucid dreaming thanks to Peszka’s student Ming Tai — a gamer herself and co-author of the new study. Pinterest Email Share on Facebookcenter_img Share on Twitter LinkedIn In the study, the researchers surveyed 297 undergraduate students regarding their dreams and gaming behavior.Game play in general was unrelated to lucid dreaming. However, the researchers found that a particular type of gaming — physically interactive games such as Nintendo’s Wii system or Microsoft’s Kinect — were associated with both lucid and control dreaming frequency. In other words, students who reported playing physically interactive games more often tended to also report experiencing lucid and control dreams more often.“Lucid and control dreaming are very interesting states, but beyond academic curiosity they also may have some therapeutic effects for issues such as PTSD,” Peszka and Sestir told PsyPost.“If this is true, then finding ways to increase their frequency would be beneficial. We found some initial evidence that certain types of game play, particularly physically interactive games where body motion is used to control the game, may be linked to such increases. It is interesting to think that gaming, which is frequently considered to have negative effects for health and well-being, could be beneficial in this context.”The findings provide some preliminary evidence that physically interactive games are associated with lucid dreaming. But more research is necessary to determine whether physically interactive games actually help induce such dreams. The cross-sectional nature of the study does not allow for conclusions about cause and effect.“We would caution moderation of video game play as there are aspects of gaming that may be detrimental, particularly before attempting sleep. The effects of frequent gaming are broad, diverse, and not fully understood. This study should not be taken as prescriptive, though we hope it may provide an initial basis for improving lucid and control dream induction for therapeutic purposes,” the researchers said.“We believe immersion in realistic, controllable virtual environments such as video games is a powerful psychological state that warrants a lot more study, particularly in its overlap with the characteristics of dream states,” Peszka and Sestir added.The study, “Relationships Between Video Game Play Factors and Frequency of Lucid and Control Dreaming Experiences“, was authored by Marc Sestir, Ming Tai and Jennifer Peszka.last_img read more

New study finds Trump’s tweets intensify anti-vaccine attitudes among his supporters

first_imgShare on Facebook LinkedIn Share Pinterest Share on Twittercenter_img Email New research has found that Americans who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 are particularly prone to anti-vaccination attitudes and that these attitudes can be exacerbated by the president’s tweets. The findings have been published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.“I’m generally interested in anti-vaccination beliefs because they have the potential to do so much damage. When Trump was elected it also struck me as a curious moment in history, because he was the first U.S. president in modern history to be on the record with anti-vaxx views,” explained study author Matthew J. Hornsey, a professor at the University of Queensland Business School.Trump had sent dozens of tweets linking vaccinations with autism, such as one in 2014 that read: “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!” Hornsey remarked that Trump is “the most conspiracy-minded president in modern history. It was natural to wonder, then, whether Trump supporters were more anti-vaxx than other Americans, and whether Trump’s tweets had the potential to still do damage.”The researchers first conducted a scientific survey of 518 Americans who voted in the 2016 presidential election. They found that participants who voted for Trump tended to be more conservative and more conspiracy-minded, which in turn made them more likely to express concerns about vaccines and agree with statements such as “Children get more vaccinations than are good for them.”“There’s a conspiratorial worldview that Trump voters hold more than other people; that it’s commonplace for groups of elites with hidden agendas to band together and conduct elaborate hoaxes on the public in near-perfect secrecy. And the data show that having that worldview makes you much more likely to be anti-vaxx,” Hornsey told PsyPost.“We then did a study to test whether reading Trump’s anti-vaxx tweets still have an impact on the public.”In the second study, another 316 Americans who voted in 2016 completed the same scientific survey. About a week later, the participants were randomly assigned to either view Trump’s tweets about vaccines or a view Trump’s tweets about golf. They then reported their levels of concern about vaccination for a second time.“Trump voters became more anti-vaxx after reading his tweets. So Trump doesn’t just reflect the views of his supporters, he still has the power to shape his supporters’ views,” Hornsey explained.“We thought that reading Trump’s tweets might shock liberal voters into being less anti-vaxx. But it didn’t. Trump’s tweets made his own supporters more anti-vaxx but had no effect on anyone else. So it was all downside; there was no upside to the tweets, sadly.”Trump appears to have reversed course on this issue, however.“Trump has stopped making anti-vaxx statements since he became president. Last year, he even encouraged parents to vaccinate their children in the face of a measles outbreak. We’re hoping this is a permanent change of heart, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Every president since Roosevelt has swung behind the science on vaccination. It’s promising that Trump has stopped backing himself into a corner on this, because his words can save lives,” Hornsey said.The study, “Donald Trump and vaccination: The effect of political identity, conspiracist ideation and presidential tweets on vaccine hesitancy“, was authored by Matthew J. Hornsey, Matthew Finlayson, Gabrielle Chatwood, and Christopher T. Begeny.last_img read more

Playing a violent video game makes people view themselves as a better fighter

first_imgShare on Facebook Email Share on Twitter Share Pinterestcenter_img LinkedIn New research provides evidence that violent video games can influence a person’s self-perceived ability and readiness to engage in a physical fight. The study, published in Computers in Human Behavior, suggests that playing violent video games can impair anger detection while enhancing the feeling of fighting ability.“There’s a huge literature on violent video games increasing aggression and altering social information processing. A separate body of research documents that playing a lot of violent video games can lead to pathological gaming, which is sometimes referred to as an addiction or Internet Gaming Disorder,” said study author Thomas F. Denson, a psychology professor at the University of New South Wales.“Pathological gaming occurs when people prioritize playing violent games over other facets of life, even when doing so causes impairment in relationships, academic pursuits, work, or mental health.” “With these two literatures in mind, our broad aim was to investigate why people find these games so captivating. We proposed that violent video games would make people feel tough. Although not perfectly replicated, the general pattern of findings suggested that violent video game play impaired anger recognition, increased players’ self-perceived fighting ability and reduced perceptions of the other men’s toughness,” Denson explained.In three experiments, which included 868 participants in total, individuals were randomly assigned to either play a violent or non-violent video game before completing various assessments of social cognition and threat perception. In the first two experiments, the participants played the game for 15 minutes on an Xbox 360 Kinect console. In the third experiment, the participants played an internet browser-based game for 5 minutes.Compared to those who played the non-violent games, participants who played the violent video games in the first two experiments tended to be worse at recognizing angry facial expressions and reported being less willing to back out of a hypothetical physical confrontation. Participants who played the violent game also thought they would fare better in a fight compared to participants who played the non-violent game.The findings indicate that “enhanced subjective fighting ability seems to be a rewarding feature of violent video games that may make them highly attractive to players,” Denson told PsyPost.But the study — like all research — includes some limitations.“One unanswered question is whether the extent to which people feel tougher eventuates into pathological gaming. We think it may, but require more data to confirm that hypothesis. Another is that the data did not perfectly replicate across the three experiments,” Denson said.In particular, in the third experiment, participants who played the violent game did not think they would fare better in a fight compared to participants who played the non-violent game. But this may be due to the fact that they only played for 5 minutes.“This research extended some other work that we’ve done on why violent video games are so alluring. In that study, we found that people who played a lot of violent video games also rated themselves as more of a ‘good catch’ to members of the opposite sex. They also reported greater interest in sex,” Denson explained.“Although those data were correlational, they are consistent with our new findings in that playing violent video games may give people a boost in confidence in both their mating and fighting abilities.”The study, “Violent video game play, gender, and trait aggression influence subjective fighting ability, perceptions of men’s toughness, and anger facial recognition“, was authored by Thomas F. Denson, Barnaby J.W. Dixson, Ana N. Tibubos, Elaine Zhang, Eddie Harmon-Jones, and Michael M. Kasumovic.last_img read more

New insight into the neural circuitry underlying irritability and anxiety in youths when processing social threat

first_imgLinkedIn Share on Facebook Pinterest “Moreover, there was very little work looking at both symptoms together, especially without a focus on traditional mental health diagnoses. At the time this study started, mental health research was moving away from traditional diagnoses because most aren’t well grounded in biology. Though the transition has been difficult, it also gave clinical scientists room to restart simply,” said Stoddard, who also leads the Emotion and Development​ Lab.“In this study we examined symptoms in a group of children diagnosed with clinically significant affective issues. Are these symptoms related to how the basic emotion recognition circuitry responds to facial expressions?”The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine the brain activity of 115 youths aged 8 to 17 years as they completed a face emotion processing task. About 90 of the participants had been diagnosed with anxiety, disruptive mood dysregulation, and/or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders. The youths and their parents also completed assessments of the participants’ irritability and anxiety.Stoddard and his colleagues found that high levels of both anxiety and irritability were associated with decreased connectivity between the amygdala and medial prefrontal cortex when viewing angry facial expressions. High levels of anxiety but low levels of irritability, on the other hand, were associated with increased connectivity in this brain circuit. The amygdala is known to be important for responses to threatening situations, while the medial prefrontal cortex is associated with decision-making processes.“This is a demonstration that the response of amygdala-centered brain networks to emotional expressions differs by anxiety and irritability in children who we might very well see in the clinic,” Stoddard told PsyPost.“Had we looked at either symptom alone, we might have missed how they respond differently. For example, we observed that changes in the prefrontal-amygdala network during viewing angry faces differ by an individual’s degree of anxiety or irritability. These differences offer important clues about the neural function youth who may express anxiety, irritability, or both. But these are clues, I don’t think much more should be taken from this study by itself.”Increased irritability by itself, meanwhile, was associated with increased activity in several brain regions in response to angry faces and happy faces compared to fearful faces.But as with all research, the study includes some limitations.“This study used functional magnetic imaging in children with serious emotional issues, these facts are the source of strengths and weaknesses. Clearly major strengths are that we examined the clinical population directly and used a noninvasive, largely safe method of measuring localized brain activity. However, it is very difficult to get a good brain signal from youngsters because they move, causing a blurry image (especially for network imaging), or get tired of the task (so their brain responses may change),” Stoddard explained.“Also, we could not ethically ask the participants to stop their medications or pause therapy risking harm. Also, if we did so, we might be studying the effects of discontinuation. On the other hand, if we only invited kids who didn’t need treatment, we might not study a group of youth who represent the conditions we see in clinics. We also didn’t focus on anxiety and irritability in some conditions like bipolar disorder or active posttraumatic stress or in different cultural contexts. Though there are caveats with each aspect of the study, it represents an interesting result and considerable effort by participants and experts.”“This type of work is critical to build a strong foundation for understanding the brain mechanisms. It is part of a growing body of literature that is revealing how brain networks function differently by development, experience, or clinical symptoms. I personally find this emerging literature satisfying, because I see complicated clinical pictures. Some stories are simpler, such as dysfunction in a single gene or brain region. These occasionally explain a lot for rare conditions, but rarely much for common conditions,” Stoddard added.“This work was a team effort. I contributed to it as part of my research training fellowship at the National Institutes of Mental Health and as an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I continue to have that latter title and am an outpatient psychiatrist at the Children’s Hospital Colorado. I’m supported by all those organizations to study pediatric anxiety and irritability. The content is solely my responsibility and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health, the University of Colorado, or Children’s Hospital Colorado.”The study, “Association of Irritability and Anxiety With the Neural Mechanisms of Implicit Face Emotion Processing in Youths With Psychopathology“, was authored by Joel Stoddard, Wan-Ling Tseng, Pilyoung Kim, Gang Chen, Jennifer Yi, Laura Donahue, Melissa A. Brotman, Kenneth E. Towbin, Daniel S. Pine, and Ellen Leibenluft. Share on Twittercenter_img New neuroimaging research published in JAMA Psychiatry helps to untangle the links between irritability, anxiety, and brain functioning in youths. The findings suggest that irritability and anxiety have interactive, rather than additive, effects when processing negative social information.“I am a practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist. Over the years, I have met with families struggling with all types of anxiety and irritability,” explained study author Joel Stoddard of the University of Colorado and Children’s Hospital Colorado.“When I was early in my career, I began to appreciate that even though ‘anxiety’ and ‘irritability’ seem like straightforward symptoms, their presentation is often intermingled. We simply don’t know why they co-occur or conversely why a child might have one symptom but not the other.” Share Emaillast_img read more

NEWS SCAN: Early flu in Australia, H1N1 mortality in adults, seasonal flu vaccine and H1N1, WHO on drug resistance, spinach recall

first_imgApr 6, 2011Australian states hit hard with early flu seasonThe southern Australian states of Victoria and South Australia are seeing an early influenza season that is producing four to five times the number of flu cases reported at this time last year, according to local newspapers. Victoria’s health department has confirmed 353 flu cases this year, compared with 67 at the same time last year, according to the Melbourne-based Herald Sun. The story quotes flu specialist Dr Alan Hampson as attributing the phenomenon to increased rainfall, which may be keeping people indoors, as well as a mild flu season last year. In South Australia, lab-confirmed flu cases have reached 172, compared with 40 at this time last year, according to AdelaideNow. University of Adelaide virologist Chris Burrell also attributed the surge to increased precipitation. “What this means is that the upsurge that happens annually is coming earlier this year,” he said. Health officials are stressing the importance of early vaccination.Apr 6 Herald Sun storyApr 6 AdelaideNow articleCalifornia study says 50-somethings had highest 2009 H1N1 death rateA study of deaths in California from the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus showed that among adults, people in their 50s had the highest H1N1 mortality rate. Writing in PLoS One, researches from the California Department of Public Health report that 541 adults (20 years and older) died of H1N1 flu from April 2009 through August 2010. The annualized fatality rate per 100,000 population was highest in 50- to 59-year-olds at 2.6, followed by 60- to 69-year-olds at 1.7. The rates for younger and older age-groups ranged from 0.3 to 1.4. The authors say their findings are consistent with national data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which show a 2009 H1N1 mortality rate of 1.69 per 100,000 in the first 10 months of the pandemic in those 50 to 64, the highest of any age-group. The researchers noted that adults over 60 may have had some protection because of preexisting immunity. Among adults who were admitted to intensive care units for H1N1 illness, fatality rates ranged from 24% to 42%, the report says.Apr 5 PLoS One reportCDC report on H1N1 hospitalization and fatality ratesStudy: Seasonal flu vaccination did not affect H1N1 riskIn a case-control study in Victoria, Australia, seasonal influenza vaccination neither raised nor lowered the risk of infection with the 2009 H1N1 flu virus, according to a report published in Vaccine. The authors note that previous studies have yielded conflicting evidence on this question. The study involved sentinel patients who had flu-like illnesses at general practices in Victoria and were tested for the virus. The researchers found no evidence that the seasonal vaccine yielded significant protection for patients in any age-group, but age-specific point estimates suggested that the vaccine provided some non-significant level of protection in younger patients while increasing the risk of H1N1 in patients aged 50 to 64 years, the report says. Overall vaccine effectiveness for all ages was 3% (95% confidence interval, -48% to 37%).Apr 5 Vaccine reportWHO observance sets sights on drug resistanceIn its observance of World Health Day tomorrow, the World Health Organization (WHO) today unveiled a six-part policy package outlining measures that governments and their partners can use to combat antimicrobial resistance. With the launch of the document, the WHO warned that drug resistance problems are becoming more severe, requiring urgent action by many sectors to slow the spread and limit the impact on future generations. WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan said in a statement today, “At a time of multiple calamities in the world, we cannot allow the loss of essential medicines—essential cures for many millions of people—to become the next global crisis.” The WHO’s recommendations include developing and implementing comprehensive national plans, boosting surveillance and lab capacity, ensuring reliable access to essential medications, regulating and promoting the rational use of medications, improving infection prevention and control, and encouraging research and development of new therapies.Apr 6 WHO statementWHO “Combat Drug Resistance” Web portalSalmonella finding prompts spinach recallFresh Express, a produce company based in Salinas, Calif., said yesterday that it was recalling 2,939 cases of spinach after a random sample tested positive for Salmonella. The company said it wasn’t aware of any illnesses and that it was coordinating closely with regulatory officials. The subject of the recall is 9-ounce bags of fresh spinach that have product codes starting with H081 and H082, a UPC code of 7127913204, and use-by dates of Apr 6 and 7.Fresh Express said it was recalling the spinach out of an abundance of caution. The spinach was distributed in eight states: Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Maine. In addition, it may have been redistributed in the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Virginia, Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire, and West Virginia.Apr 5 Fresh Express press releaselast_img read more

NEWS SCAN: Peanut butter Salmonella update, more fungal meningitis, low flu activity, West Nile mutation?

first_imgNov 9, 2012CDC pinpoints peanut butter product in Salmonella outbreakState health officials have isolated the Salmonella Bredeney outbreak strain in peanut butter sold at Trader’s Joe’s in an investigation of an outbreak that has now grown to 41 cases in 20 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced yesterday. Investigators from New Jersey, Virginia, and Washington found the outbreak strain in opened jars of Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter with Sea Salt collected from patients’ homes, the CDC reported. The peanut butter was made by Sunland Inc. of Portales, N.M., which has recalled hundreds of products since the outbreak surfaced in September. The new case count is three higher than in the previous CDC update on Oct 24, with the latest cases in New York, North Carolina, and Virginia. Among 36 people with available information, 10 were hospitalized. Sixty-three percent of the patients have been children under 10, and illness onset dates ranged from Jun 14 to Sep 21. The CDC said the incidence of cases has declined, but the outbreak could continue for months if consumers are unaware of the Sunland recalls.Nov 8 CDC updateFungal meningitis outbreak grows to 438 casesFourteen more infections and one death have been reported in a multistate fungal meningitis outbreak linked to contaminated steroid injections, the CDC said today. The new cases raise the outbreak total to 438 illnesses, 32 of them fatal. The number of affected states remained at 19, and the number of peripheral joint infections linked to tainted methylprednisolone acetate from New England Compounding Center stayed at 10. So far Exserohilum rostratum, a type of black mold, has been confirmed in clinical specimens from 75 patients. Only one patient—the index case—had a lab-confirmed Aspergillus fumigatus infection. The CDC said it is aware of reports of spinal epidural abscess and arachnoiditis complications in a number of patients being treated for fungal meningitis infections. It added that most of the early reports are from patients in Michigan and Tennessee, but other states are reporting the conditions as well.Nov 9 CDC updateUS, global flu activity remains lowUS influenza activity increased in some areas but overall remained at the same low levels as last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today. The proportion of outpatient visits attributed to influenza-like illness (ILI) was 1.3%, which is below the national baseline of 2.2%, and all 10 regions reported ILI below their baseline levels. Louisiana reported low ILI activity; while the rest of the country experienced minimal ILI activity. Maine reported regional geographic spread of influenza, 8 states saw local activity, 33 states reported sporadic activity, and 8 states had no activity. During the week ending Nov 3, the proportion of patients’ deaths due to pneumonia and flu was 6.6%, compared with a national baseline of 6.5%. No pediatric deaths were reported.Nov 9 CDC updateGlobally, flu activity remains low throughout the temperate North Hemisphere, with a slight uptick in virus detections but none crossing the epidemic threshold, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in an update. The agency added that Nicaragua and Costa Rica reported an increase in mainly influenza B and that India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Cambodia are reporting circulation of all three virus subtypes: pandemic 2009 H1N1 (pH1N1), H3N2, and influenza B.Nov 9 WHO updateThe European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said today that all 26 reporting countries are seeing low flu activity, and that only 2 of 279 sentinel specimens from 19 countries were positive for flu. The agency also released a report today summarizing flu virus characteristics in Europe so far this year. It says that H3N2 viruses have predominated, and that pH1N1 viruses continue to exhibit genetic drift from the vaccine strain, “but the vast majority remain antigenically similar to it.”Nov 9 ECDC weekly updateNov 9 ECDC report on virus characteristicsWest Nile virus may be attacking the brain more aggressivelyThe West Nile virus (WNV) responsible for more than 5,000 US cases this year may be attacking the brain more aggressively than previous years’ strains, according to a Washington Post story yesterday. Two neurologists and WNV experts—Art Leis, MD, of Jackson, Miss., and Elizabeth J. Angus, MD, of Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital—said the cases they’ve seen raise the possibility that the virus has mutated. Leis has seen more damage in the parts of the brain that control speech and thought, and Angus has observed brain damage in young, previously health patients, which she hadn’t seen before. “For the first time, we have radiographic evidence, clinical evidence of the virus attacking the higher cortical areas,” said Leis, who added that 11 of the first 12 patients he saw this year at the Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson had more severe brain damage than in previous years. “I’ve been struck this year that I’m seeing more patients where the brain dysfunction has been very much worse,” Angus commented. A CDC scientist said the agency hasn’t noted this difference but acknowledged that the CDC does not collect the in-depth data needed to make this observation.Nov 8 Washington Post storylast_img read more

NEWS SCAN: Novel coronavirus meeting, flu reassortment in ferrets, egg producer warnings

first_imgJan 10, 2013WHO to convene Jan 14-15 meeting on novel coronavirusThe World Health Organization (WHO) will convene a technical meeting early next week about the novel human coronavirus that has been confirmed in nine cases in recent months, including five fatalities. “WHO has organized a technical consultative meeting to take place at the WHO Regional Office in Cairo from 14 to 15 January 2013 on the novel human coronavirus. The meeting will bring together representatives of the three countries already affected, in addition to key partners and WHO collaborating centres involved in managing this public health issue, together with WHO experts,” the agency said in a news release yesterday. Cases so far have been in patients from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan. The goal of the meeting is to obtain the most up-to-date understanding of the virus, identify key knowledge gaps, and identify steps to gain a better understanding of the virus, the WHO said.Jan 9 WHO news releaseStudy: Ferrets may be good models for studying flu virus reassortmentIn an experiment, the co-infection of ferrets with two different recombinant influenza viruses led to the emergence of a new strain containing genes from both viruses, suggesting that ferrets may serve as good animal models for studying flu virus reassortment, says a report yesterday in the Journal of Virology. Ferrets are commonly used to study flu virus activity, but reassortment in the animals has been little studied, according to the report by researchers from the University of Maryland and the US Food and Drug Administration. In previous studies in which ferrets were co-infected with pandemic 2009 H1N1 (pH1N1) and H3N2 viruses, reassortment did not occur. The researchers here used two types of recombinant viruses, one carrying the surface genes of a seasonal H3N2 strain with background genes from pH1N1, and the other having the reverse combination. After several passages of these co-infections in ferrets, a dominant H1N2 reassortant virus emerged, most of whose gene segments came from pH1N1. The authors say their findings suggest that reassortment events in lab ferrets parallel those that occur in nature. “The rapid selection of specific gene segments in our study highlights the utility of the ferret as an in vivo model to study the viral and host factors contributing to reassortment,” they comment.Jan 9 J Virol abstractFDA warns two egg producers about rule violationsThe FDA has warned two egg companies that some of their facilities are violating shell egg safety rules, according to letters the agencies sent the firms in late December and posted on its Web site yesterday. The warnings relate to July 2012 inspection findings at the Midwest Poultry Services facility in Ft Recovery, Ohio, and inspections on various dates in May through August at five California facilities held by SKS Enterprises, Inc. The main violations at Midwest Poultry were that the firm failed to implement portions of its Salmonella Enteritidis prevention plan, to use appropriate rodent control in four layer houses, and to maintain documentation for complying with refrigeration requirements. For the SKS Enterprises farms, the violations varied by facility and included, for example, deviations from Salmonella Enteritidis testing protocols and failure to prevent wild birds from entering the poultry houses. The FDA directed both companies to reply to the letters, detailing steps they have taken to correct the violations. The shell egg rules, which took several years to develop, went into effect for the biggest producers in July 2010.Dec 20 FDA warning letterDec 21 FDA warning letterlast_img read more