A high dose of cortisone can help reduce the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new animal study at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Soroka University Medical Center and the Beersheba Mental Health Center. Dr. Hagit Cohen and colleagues at the Faculty of Health Sciences' anxiety and stress research unit published their findings in a recent issue of Biological Psychiatry. In an animal model of PTSD, high doses of a cortisol-related substance called corticosterone prevented negative consequences of stress exposure, including increased startle response and freezing when exposed to reminders of the stress. Cortisol is secreted into the blood by the adrenal glands, which become active when the body responds to stress. It is known as "the stress hormone" because it is also secreted in higher levels during the body's "fight-or-flight" response to stress, and are responsible for several stress-related changes in the body. According to the Beersheba researchers, a single intervention with high-dose corticosterone immediately after exposure to a psychogenic stressor was highly effective in reducing the incidence of PTSD-like behaviors, and improved the resilience to subsequent trauma-cue exposure. "Single high-dose corticosteroid treatment may thus be worthy of clinical investigation," Cohen said. STATE OF GLOBAL DISEASE The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a new assessment of the Global Burden of Disease - a study that provides a comprehensive picture of the global and regional state of health. Drawing from extensive data, it features comparisons between deaths, diseases and injuries by region, age, sex and country income for the year 2004. It also provides projections of deaths and burden of disease by cause and region to the year 2030. The study contains details of the top 10 causes of death, and estimates for over 130 disease and injury causes. Worldwide, Africa accounts for nine out of every 10 child deaths due to malaria and AIDS, and for half of the world's child deaths due to diarrhea and pneumonia. The top five causes of death in low-income countries are pneumonia, heart disease, diarrhea, AIDS and stroke. In Western, high-income countries such as Israel, the list is topped by heart disease, followed by stroke, lung cancer, pneumonia, and asthma/bronchitis. Men between 15 and 60 have much higher risks of dying than women in the same age category. This is mainly due to higher levels of heart disease and injuries. This difference is most pronounced in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Depression is the leading cause of years lost due to disability - the burden being 50 percent higher for females than for males. In both low- and high-income countries, the harmful use of alcohol is among the 10 leading causes of disability. "It is vital that we have a global and regional picture of deaths, disease and disability," said Colin Mathers, the WHO's coordinator for epidemiology and lead author of the study. "It enables policymakers and countries to identify the gaps and ensure that efforts are directed to those most in need.