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  • Seregraff/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Understanding why some children develop autism and others -- sometimes even their twins -- do not has stymied researchers for decades, but a new study says that baby teeth may provide some clues.The new study published in Nature Communications sheds light on some possible factors in autism risk, revealed in children's teeth: exposure to various metals, both toxic and nutritional, like lead and zinc and the changes in exposure at different stages in a child’s development.The small study examined baby teeth from 32 sets of twins to see if levels of lead and other metals correlated with an increased risk of developing autism. Autism spectrum disorder continues to affect 1 to 2 percent of all children born in Europe, North America and other developed regions, according to the study authors.Though much research has been done in the field, there has been little study about how specific environmental factors can affect autism risk."We think autism begins very early, most likely in the womb, and research suggests that our environment can increase a child's risk. But by the time children are diagnosed at age 3 or 4, it's hard to go back and know what the moms were exposed to," Cindy Lawler, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Genes, Environment, and Health Branch, said in a statement released today. "With baby teeth, we can actually do that."In the study, researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai examined whether exposure to certain metals, identified in the matrix of baby teeth, showed an association with autism risk.Researchers recruited twins from a national database of twins in Sweden to get a better understanding of how patterns of metal uptake compared among children both diagnosed and not diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.The study was led by Manish Arora, Ph.D., an environmental scientist and dentist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. With support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), Arora and colleagues had previously developed a method that used baby teeth that had fallen out normally to measure children's exposure to lead and other metals while in the womb and during early childhood.Researchers use lasers to extract precise layers of dentine, the hard substance beneath tooth enamel, for metal analysis."What is needed is a window into our fetal life," he said. "Unlike genes, our environment is constantly changing, and our body's response to environmental stressors not only depends on just how much we were exposed to, but at what age we experienced that exposure."The researchers looked at metals that are key nutrients such as zinc and manganese, as well as toxic metals like lead. They were also able to estimate at what point in the child’s development they were exposed to certain metals and at what levels.They used baby teeth from 32 pairs of twins to establish a pattern of metal uptake. Of these 32 pairs of twins, six had only one twin with autism spectrum disorder, seven had both twins had autism spectrum disorder and 19 were unaffected by autism spectrum disorder. The researchers found smaller differences in the metal intake patterns when both of the twins had autism. They found significant differences in pairs where one sibling was diagnosed with autism.The researchers were able to show differences in six metals including lead, zinc, tin, chromium and manganese out of the ten metals studied and autism rates. Both lead and manganese, which were statistically significant in how they related to autism risk.Lead levels were consistently higher from 10 weeks before birth to 20 weeks after birth in children with autism spectrum disorder than their non-autism spectrum disorder counterparts.The greatest difference was observed at 15 weeks after the twins were born: lead levels were 1.5 times higher in children with autism spectrum disorder than in their co-twins.Manganese levels were consistently lower in ch
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  • benito_anu/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In his announcement Thursday that the U.S. will leave the Paris Agreement, President Trump described the temperature difference estimated as a result of the deal as "tiny."But tiny numbers have a significant long term impact when it comes to the climate, many experts say. A half-degree temperature difference can lead to consequences like rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities, longer heat waves and could kill off tropical coral reefs, according to research from the European Geosciences Union.It's difficult to say for sure how Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement will impact the climate but several scientific groups have published projections. Most of those projections predict that even if every other country in the agreement meets their goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions the global temperature will still rise because the U.S. is one of the top sources of gases that contribute to global warming.The non-profit group Climate Interactive projects average temperatures would warm an additional 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100 if U.S. emissions continue as they are now and every other country fulfills their pledge under the deal.Another scientific group, Climate Action Tracker, puts the impact of additional warming at 0.18 to 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit.The Sierra Club has also put out numbers that say 60 percent of the emissions reduction goals the U.S. set under the Paris deal could be met by local initiatives – states and cities taking matters into their own hands -- but that analysis assumes that the U.S. completely replaces coal with clean energy.Another factor that complicates these estimates is that the president has signed executive orders to roll back environmental protections and directed the Environmental Protection Agency to eliminate regulations. The analysis published by Climate Action Tracker found that the U.S. would likely miss its targets under the Paris deal anyway based on Trump's executive orders. Obama administration initiatives like the Clean Power Plan were factored in to discussions about how the U.S. would reduce global emissions, which makes the impact of eliminating those policies and leaving the Paris deal even more unclear.
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  • Hunstock/iStock/Thinkstock(MACON, Georgia) -- A few months ago, Almatmed Abdelsalam was busy looking for a home for his family of four in the modestly-sized city of Macon, Georgia, eager to settle down after securing a job as a physician.The city is one of the many rural and urban areas that face a severe shortage of doctors, a burden that has been relieved by foreign doctors allowed to stay in the U.S. to help. Thanks to this special visa waiver program, Abdelsalam expected to join the estimated 1,000 international physicians each year who opt to work in underserved communities across America.However, on April 3rd, the United States Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) temporarily halted fast-track processing of visas for foreign doctors.Now, with only 30 days left to obtain new visas, Abdelsalam and nearly a thousand other foreign doctors are racing against the clock, wondering whether they will have a place in the U.S. And the hospitals and communities are also waiting, uncertain if the physicians they need will arrive at all.Abdelsalam was a practicing physician in Benghazi, Libya, until 2010. He was nominated by his government to pursue a master's degree in microbiology in the U.S. But months after he left, the Libyan government collapsed during the Arab Spring.In the six years since, Abdelsalam has built a new life here, including a return to medicine. He will finish his residency in internal medicine at the University of Central Florida this June.Abdelsalam started applying for a special waiver through the Conrad 30 waiver program almost 16 months ago, so he and his family could continue to live in America after his training.The U.S. has long been grappling with a physician shortage, gaps disproportionately filled by international medical graduates. The Conrad 30 program allows each state to exempt up to 30 foreign physicians per year from having to return to their home country after training in the U.S. The J-1 visas that many foreign doctors rely on expire on July 1, after they have finished their medical residencies or fellowships.In exchange for visa waivers, doctors who receive the exemption are required to work in communities suffering a doctor shortage for at least three years. The waiver application process begins in the fall and involves approvals from the relevant state health department, the Department of State, and the USCIS. Doctors receive the waiver the following spring.But the process has been disrupted. President Trump’s recent executive orders threw Abdelsalam’s life into disarray. His waiver request moved to the Department of State the day before the first order was signed, but only cleared in early April said Abdelsalam.“If I was applying last year, I would’ve said it’s a done deal,” he said. “It’s usually a formality to get the rest of the approvals once you’ve had your application approved by the state [health department]. But now, given these circumstances, it’s much more difficult.”Usually, once the waivers are approved, foreign physicians then need to get H1-B visas to continue living in America legally -- a process that in the past took about two weeks. However, with the USCIS suspending premium processing for these visas, these applications are no longer receiving expedited review.According to the USCIS, suspending the program will allow the organization to process a backlog of petitions.“This temporary suspension will help us to reduce overall H-1B processing times,” they said. “We will be able to process long-pending petitions, which we have currently been unable to process due to the high volume of incoming petitions and the significant surge in premium processing requests over the past few years”Instead, many foreign doctors will now have to wait anywhere from eight months to more than a year, according to Jennifer Minear, an immigration attorney from the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
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  • MangoStar_Studio/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Handshakes may soon become a thing of the past at hospitals, thanks to a group of doctors' efforts to stop the spread of bacteria and viruses."The handshake-free zone brings attention to the hands as vectors to disease," Dr. Mark Sklansky told ABC News, explaining that people's hands are often covered in bacteria or viruses picked up from various surfaces. "If people knew this years ago, [handshakes] would not be part of the practice of healthcare."At UCLA, Sklansky and other doctors have started a program to discourage handshakes among staff who treat the most vulnerable patients in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Kaiser Health News was the first to highlight the pioneering program.Sklansky, professor of clinical pediatrics and chief of pediatric cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, started the initiative in 2015. The initiative stems from the fact that medical staff who do not wash their hands often enough can put the hospital's most vulnerable patients at risk for infection.Doctors treating children, "many whom have antibiotic-resistant germs," could pass those germs on to even more vulnerable infants, Sklansky said.WHO estimates of compliance for hand hygiene in medical settings frequently fall below 40 percent, Sklansky said. Poor hand hygiene can mean increased risk for hospital-acquired infections, which kill approximately 80,000 patients in the U.S. each year, according to the WHO.Sklansky studied how people responded to the program at two neonatal intensive care unit centers at UCLA. He found that families were likely to be in support of the program immediately but older, male physicians were the most reticent about giving up handshakes. The study was published earlier this year in the American Journal of Infection Control."In contrast to findings of prior surveys recommending the continued use of the handshake in adult medical settings, we found that patient families expressed nearly universal support for the concept of [handshake-free zones] in NICUs," Sklansky and his co-authors wrote.Sklansky isn't the first to be concerned about the cleanliness of handshakes. In 2014, researchers from Aberystwyth University studied which greeting was the most hygienic among a high-five, fist bump or handshake.They found a traditional handshake transmitted the most amount of bacteria and a fist bump transmitted the least amount of bacteria.Sklansky said that for doctors, shaking hands isn't just about good manners, it's also part of their medical school training. While counterintuitive, he thinks that taking away the handshake can actually force doctors to take more time and make more of a connection with a patient and their family before delving into treatment options."Without sitting down and listening, [the handshake is] not as effective as someone might think," Sklansky said.Sklansky said he has foregone handshakes in most of his interactions in the hospital."I like to smile, look someone in the eye and touch someone on their should or do a little bow," Skalansky said.Next, he wants to study if handshake-free zones actually decrease the number infections in patients. He predicts that could be likely. Fellow doctors have emailed him about possibly implementing the practice in other areas of the hospital, but for now, it remains in effect only in UCLA's NICU..Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • mrspopman/iStock/Thinkstock(WEST BEND, WI) -- A teen in Wisconsin is being recognized for saving her mother’s life, thanks to a science lesson she learned at school.Katie Murphy, 14, learned the symptoms of a stroke at St. John’s Lutheran School from her teacher, Beth Tomlin. Two days later, she saw her mom, Christa Murphy, experiencing those symptoms and rushed in to help.Christa told ABC affiliate WISN in Milwaukee that she went to her daughter for help after noticing she was struggling with simple things around the house, like putting toothpaste on her toothbrush."Her speech was all mixed up. I was like, 'Maybe she's having a stroke,'" Katie told WISN.Katie called 911 and her mom was taken to the hospital. Doctors were able to confirm her diagnosis."I'm extremely blessed to be sitting here today," Christa told WISN.
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