Alternative to Steroid Cream Effective in Fighting Eczema

From Times staff and wire reports

An ointment version of a widely used drug for transplant patients appears to be effective against eczema. Researchers say the medicine, a form of the drug known as tacrolimus or FK506, may offer an alternative to corticosteroid creams.

In a study in the Sept. 18 New England Journal of Medicine, doctors from Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany, found that three weeks of treatment on 213 patients made skin rashes disappear in about three-quarters of patients with eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis. The only apparent side effect of the ointment was a burning sensation. The ointment is not yet commercially available.

Natural Substance Helps Diabetics With Foot Infections

British scientists have found that a naturally occurring substance called granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) can help diabetic patients fight off foot infections. Diabetics are susceptible to such infections because of poor circulation in their limbs and nerve damage that often masks the presence of cuts and abrasions. The disease also impedes the body’s immune response.


Dr. Andrew Gough and his colleagues at King’s College Hospital in London studied 40 patients with such infections. Half received G-CSF and half received a placebo, but all received antibiotics. They report in the Sept. 20 Lancet that patients receiving G-CSF required less antibiotic, recovered faster and were released from the hospital sooner.

Now Cancer Patients Can Lick Away the Pain

AU.S. government advisory panel Wednesday recommended approval of a new drug formulation that would let cancer patients treat severe pain at home, saying its benefits outweighed the risks. Actiq, made by Salt Lake City-based Anesta Corp., comes on a stick resembling a lollipop, which patients can suck on, delivering the pain medication quickly to the body.

Anesta said tests showed Actiq (oral transmucosal fetanyl citrate) worked as well as intravenous morphine in treating the flare-ups of so-called breakthrough pain that torment many cancer patients.

Organ Donor Left Legacy of Life--and Peanut Allergy

A man who received a new liver and kidney in an organ transplant also got something he didn’t want--an allergy to peanuts. French doctors described the unusual case, which occurred eight years ago, in the New England Journal of Medicine.

A 22-year-old man who knew he was allergic to peanuts ate them by mistake when he had satay sauce, which contains peanuts. He fell into a coma and died. Doctors gave his liver and right kidney to a 35-year-old man and his pancreas and left kidney to a 27-year-old woman. Neither was told of the cause of the organ donor’s death. Three months later, the man suffered a skin rash and difficulty breathing after eating peanuts. After concluding he had a newly developed allergy, the doctors fed peanuts to the woman under close medical supervision, but she showed no ill effects.

Frequent Sex Leads to Baby Boys, Researchers Find


Abstinence from sex in the days before fertilization slightly increases the chances of having a girl by increasing the number of X-chromosome-bearing--or girl-determining--sperm. Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston studied 10 healthy men, ages 30 to 40. Each man produced two semen samples--one 24 to 36 hours after ejaculation, one seven to 10 days afterward.

They reported in the September Fertility and Sterility that the samples obtained shortly after ejaculation contained 47.6% X-bearing sperm, while those obtained after days contained 49.6%.

Previous studies have shown that more boys are born in the first several years of marriage and after soldiers return from war, both periods when frequent sex would occur. The new findings could provide an explanation for those observations.