Health Scan: Computer program assists transplants

A unique computer program developed at the Rabin Medical Center significantly increases the success of transplantation. Reportedly the first of its kind, the ChimerTrack can carry out 13 biomathematical calculations simultaneously, present graphs and tables, check the quality of data and produce a comprehensive clinical report. The tissue-typing lab on the medical center's Beilinson Campus worked on the project to follow up the condition of bone-marrow and stem-cell transplant patients. The conventional technique for assessing the success of such transplants is based on the ratio of the number of blood cells in the person who donated the bone marrow or stem cells and those of the recipient. The ratio is called chimerism. Until now, this calculation has been done manually, which sometimes led to errors, reducing the chances for success and even leading to the patient's death. The computer program makes it possible not only to get accurate data in real time but to follow up changes in the figures over a long period of time. This is very important, since dynamic changes can point to trends in the patient's recovery and a need to change treatments. Copies of the Beilinson program, developed by Prof. Don Krist, Dr. Teresa Klein and Prof. Eitan Mor are now being used in medical centers around the world, and articles about it have been published in major medical journals such as Leukemia. JAVA JOLT A cup of coffee may cause a heart attack in some people within an hour, according to a retrospective study reported in the September issue of Epidemiology . The risk was highest among people with light or occasional coffee intake and those with a sedentary lifestyle or other risk factors for coronary heart disease. Studying 503 cases of non-fatal myocardial infarction in Costa Rica, Dr. Ana Baylin of Brown University and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health surveyed participants about their coffee consumption in the hours and days before their heart attack. They also studied the participants' socio-demographic characteristics, lifestyle, and medical history. They theorized that caffeine causes short-term increases in blood pressure and sympathetic nervous activity that could affect a vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque and trigger a heart attack. The researchers found that the moderate coffee drinkers - by having a cup of coffee - increased their risk of having a heart attack by 60%. There was little effect among heavy coffee drinkers, but light coffee drinkers increased their risk of heart attack by more than 400%. This may be because light drinkers are less acclimated to the effects of caffeine. Baylin and her team also found that patients with three or more risk factors for coronary heart disease more than doubled their risk. "People at high risk for a heart attack who are occasional or regular coffee drinkers might consider quitting altogether," comments Baylin, adding that for these individuals, a cup of coffee could be "the straw that broke the camel's back." Coffee's effects on the human body have been studied for years. Baylin's study is unique in that it looks at immediate effects rather than long-term ones. Although the study was conducted in Costa Rica, the researchers say the results are relevant to the US as well, since Americans' caffeine intake is comparable. PHARMACIST PUNISHED The Health Ministry has suspended for two months the license to practice of pharmacist Dr. Mario Sachs, after a committee headed by retired judge Vardi Zeiler found that he sold prescription medications (such as pain reliever Algolosin Forte) without a prescription. Selling drugs that require a prescription over the counter can have serious repercussions on public health and is strictly forbidden, said Zeiler. Sachs, represented by a Tel Aviv lawyer, will not be permitted to serve as pharmacist in charge of a shift for five years, and for two years will work only under supervision of an authorized pharmacist. For a year, he will not issue pharmaceuticals registered as dangerous drugs. The judge assented to Sachs's request that he be allowed to go on paid leave one month a year for two years rather than lose his license for two months at once, because he was an employed pharmacist rather than the owner of his own shop and would suffer severe economic hardship. HEAVEN CALLING Cellular phones should not be used outdoors in stormy weather, according to three doctors who write about such a case in a recent issue of the British Medical Journal.They describe the case of a 15-year-old girl who was struck by lightning while using her mobile phone in a large park in London. She was successfully resuscitated, but one year later suffered complex physical, cognitive and emotional problems. If someone is struck by lightning, the high resistance of human skin results in lightning being conducted over the skin without entering the body, explain the authors. This is known as flashover and has a low death rate. Conductive materials such as liquids or metallic objects disrupt the flashover and result in internal injury, with greater death rates. They knew of no such case previously reported inb medical journals, but identified three in general newspapers in China, Korea and Malaysia - all of them ending in death. "This rare phenomenon is a public health issue, and education is necessary to highlight the risk of using mobile phones outdoors during stormy weather," say the authors. The Australian Lightning Protection Standard recommends that metallic objects, including cordless or mobile phones, should not be used [or carried] outdoors during a thunderstorm," they add. "We could not find any advice from British telecommunication companies."