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June 21st, 2010
04:45 PM ET

FDA approves new HIV diagnostic test

By Saundra Young
CNN Medical Senior Producer

The first diagnostic test to detect both HIV antigens and antibodies was approved Monday by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. The new test means infections will be caught days earlier. Antigens are proteins produced by a virus, bacteria or other microorganisms immediately after infection. They stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies–a protein found in the blood that help fight foreign substances such as  viruses. Antibodies develop days after the initial infection as the body works to fight off infection.

The test, called the ARCHITECT HIV Ag/Ab Combo assay was developed by Abbott Laboratories and will be used to diagnose both HIV-1 and HIV-2 infections in adults, pregnant women and children 2 years and older. HIV-1 is found around the world and responsible for most HIV infections, while HIV-2 is seen primarily in West Africa. They are both transmitted the same way, but HIV-2 seems to develop more slowly and is usually milder at the beginning. A test is needed to determine which type you have.

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June 21st, 2010
02:15 PM ET

World's first fully approved cannabis drug on sale in UK

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

A medication called Sativex has become the first drug fully approved for multiple sclerosis that is made from natural cannabis.

The United Kingdom's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved the drug, an oral spray, on Friday, and it went on sale in the country on Monday. The drug has been available in Canada on a limited basis since 2005 for the relief of neuropathic pain and advanced cancer pain, and also to a small number of patients in Spain. It is expected to be approved more broadly in Spain later this year.

Sativex is approved by prescription only for multiple sclerosis patients in the U.K. It targets the effects of spasticity, a symptom of multiple sclerosis caused by damage to nerves in the central nervous system. Loss of mobility and painful spasms may result from this involuntary stiffening of muscles.

The drug is sprayed into the mouth on the inside of the cheek or under the tongue, said Bayer Schering Pharma, the pharmaceutical company launching the product. Cannabis plants grown in a controlled environment give rise to the extracts that are the active ingredients of the drug.

The Multiple Sclerosis Trust, a U.K. charity, supported the launch of this medication.

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June 21st, 2010
10:23 AM ET

FDA cracking down on tobacco marketing, sales to kids

By Cristina Hernandez
CNN Medical Producer

Stricter new rules limiting the marketing and sales of tobacco products targeting young people go into effect Tuesday, the first anniversary of the landmark Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act.

Banned are the sale or marketing of candy or fruit-flavored cigarettes, to limit attraction to children; the sale of cigarettes anyone under age 18;  and use of the  words "light," "mild" or "low-tar" on cigarette labels.

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June 21st, 2010
10:11 AM ET

Men's voices may predict strength

By Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

Some guys sound tough - and according to a new study, that may a good way of predicting whether they really are.

Results  in the current Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that people can accurately evaluate the upper-body strength based on men's voices from four different populations and language groups. The voice samples came from the Tsimane of Bolivia, Andean herder-horticulturalists from Argentina, and college students from the United States and Romania.

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June 21st, 2010
08:59 AM ET

New study supports exclusive breastfeeding for first six months

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical Managing Editor

New research provides more evidence that when moms exclusively breastfeed their newborns and infants for the first six months of life, they can signficantly reduce their baby's risk of serious lung and intestinal infections.

Researchers in the Netherlands looked at data from more than 4000 infants. They found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for more than four months had a "significant reduction of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases in infants."  They also found that being breastfed until six months of age seemed to be even more protective and even appeared to reduce the number of infections for the next six months of the child's life.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

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June 21st, 2010
12:01 AM ET

Common chemicals may alter thyroid function

By Caleb Hellerman
CNN Senior Medical Producer

Flame retardant chemicals found in a wide variety of products may affect the function of the thyroid gland, according to a study published Monday by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), the chemicals are used in television and computer screens, as well as in polyurethane foam for furniture and carpeting.

Researchers examined 270 pregnant women, checking the level of PBDEs in their bloodstream, and the level of TSH, a hormone linked to thyroid function. On average, higher levels of PBDEs were linked to lower TSH levels – which means that women with a high PBDE exposure tended to have overly active thyroid glands. (The lower the TSH level, the more active the thyroid gland).

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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