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Science Scene

Older blood found to increase infections in hospitalized patients

A recent study showed that hospitalized patients who received blood that was more than a month old were three times more likely to develop infections than those who received fresher blood.

The study, conducted at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, was based on 422 patients. Of those, 57 developed one or more infections while hospitalized. All the patients were in the medical/surgical intensive care unit and received blood between July 2003 and September 2006.

Although the stored blood itself may not be infected, it contains chemical agents called cytokines that could affect patientsimmune systems, making them more susceptible to infections. Among affected patients, there was an increase in urinary tract infections, pneumonia and infections associated with intravenous lines.

Current rules allow for blood to be stored for no more than 42 days. After this time, the blood must be discarded. Blood banks tend to use the oldest blood first to keep it from going to waste.

The study also released information from a March report regarding patients who had undergone heart surgeries. In comparison to those who received blood less than two weeks old, patients who received blood stored for more than two weeks were 64 percent more likely to die in the hospital.

Patients who received blood more than 32 days old were 2.9 times more likely to develop an infection than those who received blood less than 28 days old, according to David Gerber, senior author of the study.

Although some suggest that stricter regulations should be enforced, experts are afraid the regulations would contribute to a blood shortage in many banks. (latimes.com)


Cholesterol-lowering drugs may prevent other conditions too

Cholesterol-fighting drugs known asstatinsmay even benefit individuals without a cholesterol problem, as new research suggests the drugs may significantly lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and death.

The study tested statin treatment in nearly 18,000 people and focused on men over age 50 and women over age 60 that did not have high cholesterol or histories of heart disease. The participants did have, however, high levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP), which can indicate inflammation in the body.

Researchers found that the risk of heart attack was cut in more than half of individuals given statins. The risk of needing bypass surgery or angioplasty or of suffering from a stroke was also reduced by about 50 percent. Individuals who took statins were also 20 percent less likely to die.

Scientists are saying this study could change the way cardiologists treat heart conditions, as half of heart attacks occur in patients without high cholesterol.

The study is also starting a debate over who should be tested for CRP as well as under what circumstances individuals with high levels of the protein should take statins. Many experts feel that having high levels of CRP alone is not enough to prescribe statins, as there are many other risk factors involved in heart disease.

The study, known asJupiter,was led by Dr. Paul M. Ridker, the director of the Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. (nytimes.com)


THUY TRAN and ANNA OPALKA compiled Science Scene. They can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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