Medical Science & Health Tip Sheet

Tip sheets highlight timely news and events at Washington University in St. Louis. For more information on any of the stories below or for assistance in arranging interviews, please see the contact information listed with each story.

Mosquitoes biteThe United States braces for another summer coping with West Nile Virus

*Culex pipiens*, a breed of mosquito known to carry the West Nile Virus

It was a cold winter in much of the country. That’s bad news for mosquitoes, but a wet spring in much of the United States will be a benefit to the buzzing bugs. Vector control specialists have plans in place to eradicate as many mosquitoes as possible, in part to prevent another summer of the West Nile Virus. In 2002, there were more than 4,000 cases reported in the United States, and almost 300 people died. The virus also decimated bird populations. This summer Michael Diamond, M.D., Ph.D., an infectious disease specialist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, believes the situation could worsen if the virus continues to be carried by mosquitoes that bite humans more than birds. Most cases in the United States still involve livestock, and a vaccine for animals recently was approved, but no vaccine exists for humans.

Smoking and ADHDKids with ADHD may smoke to treat their attention problems

Nanoparticles can be loaded with a variety of things, including imaging agents and drugs.

Using nanoparticles, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis hope to send imaging agents and medications directly to specific cells. The research team recently received a three-year contract from the National Cancer Institute to explore nanoparticle technology for cancer detection and treatment. They also have reported success at detecting very early stages of heart disease. The researchers load specific drugs or imaging agents onto nanoparticles. Then, by injecting those packed particles into a patient, they are able to use MRI scans to locate very tiny blood vessels that tend to grow around plaques in cardiac arteries and near tumor cells at the earliest stages of cancer.

Less is more, when it comes to diseased lung tissueEmphysema surgery continues to help patients 5 years later

The enlarged and distended lungs of an emphysema patient before surgery.

Known as lung-volume reduction surgery, the procedure improves overall health and quality of life for people with end-stage emphysema. Now lung surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that the positive effects last for as long as five years in more than half of all patients. It is not a cure for emphysema, but studies suggest that the surgery can increase breathing capacity by more than 50 percent. The procedure was developed a decade ago at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. It doesn’t help most people with emphysema, but in patients with disease that is localized to certain areas of the lung, it is possible to remove the most diseased portions of lung tissue and provide more room for the lung to expand inside the chest cavity.

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