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New Blood Test Can Show Patient's Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke


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This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty.

And, I'm Faith Lapidus. This week, we tell about a new test for patients with heart disease. We also tell about progress in fighting an infectious disease. And we tell about the environmental friendliness of North American colleges and universities.

American researchers say they have developed a simple test that can tell if a person with heart disease is likely to suffer a heart attack. The researchers say the test measures levels of a protein in the blood. They say people with high levels of the protein are at high risk of heart attack, heart failure or stroke.

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo of the University of California in San Francisco led the team of researchers. They studied almost one thousand patients with heart disease for almost four years. During that time, more than two hundred fifty of the patients suffered a heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Some of them died.

The researchers tested the heart disease patients for a protein called NT-proBNP. Patients with the highest levels were nearly eight times more likely than those with the lowest levels to have a heart attack, heart failure or stroke.

The researchers considered other ways to identify someone with an increased risk of heart disease. They found that patients with high levels of the protein were still more likely to have a health problem involving the heart.

The researchers say the presence of high levels of the protein in the blood shows that the heart muscle is under pressure in some way. The study involved mostly men, so the researchers could not say for sure that the results are true for women.

They also say the patients with the highest levels of NT-proBNP were older and had other problems, like diabetes or high blood pressure. Such patients were more likely to be already taking medicine for their heart.

Other researchers say more studies are needed to confirm if knowing the protein levels of a heart patient should affect that person's treatment. They also would like to know if more aggressive treatment would be able to reduce the patient's chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Measles is one of the most infectious viruses known. It spreads through the air when people infected with the disease expel the virus through the nose or mouth. Children in wealthier countries are usually given a vaccine to protect against measles.

A campaign called the Measles Initiative was launched in two thousand one to vaccinate children in developing countries. The aim was a fifty percent reduction in deaths linked to measles by two thousand five.

Last month, organizers of the Measles Initiative announced that the final numbers showed a sixty percent drop in deaths. There were eight hundred seventy-three thousand deaths in nineteen ninety-nine, the year used for comparison. Six years later that number had dropped to three hundred forty-five thousand.

The organizers say more than two million lives have been saved, mostly in Africa. Health officials report a seventy-five percent drop in deaths in Africa linked to measles.

Measles itself is usually not a direct cause of death. Deaths are commonly the result of infections like pneumonia or severe diarrhea. Those who survive can suffer brain damage, blindness or other disabilities.

The first sign of infection is usually a high body temperature for as long as a week. Patients may develop a runny nose, cough, red and watery eyes and white spots inside the mouth. After several days, areas of skin may change color, first usually on the face and upper neck.

A case of measles can be just a mild and unpleasant part of childhood. But severe cases are more likely in children with poor diets or weakened defenses from diseases like AIDS. Children under the age of five and adults over the age of twenty are more likely to suffer severe cases. People who recover from measles can never get it again.

The Measles Initiative includes the American Red Cross, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund.

The campaign has cost almost four hundred million dollars. Officials say about five hundred million more will be needed to meet a new goal by two thousand ten. The goal now is to reduce measles deaths worldwide to less than ten percent of the rate in the year two thousand.

The campaign will now center its efforts in Asian countries, especially India. Each year, about one hundred thousand Indian children die as a result of measles.

This year is the tenth anniversary of the invention of the cell phone camera. Some people say the device began a kind of revolution in everyday life.

It all started at a hospital in the United States. Philippe Kahn was there with his wife. She was preparing to give birth to their daughter Sophie. Mr. Kahn wanted to take pictures of the baby and share them with family and friends around the world. He thought about placing electronic versions of the pictures on an Internet Web site.

Mr. Kahn said he spent two days working on the project. When Sophie was born, he had connected a camera to his cellular telephone. The unusual device could also put the pictures on the Internet.

At the time of his invention, Philippe Kahn was already a successful businessman. He started Borland International shortly after moving to the United States from France. Borland International became the third largest computer software company in the world. Mr. Kahn had also started other businesses. So he formed a company to produce and sell camera phones. The first ones were sold in Japan in nineteen ninety-nine.

Today, camera phones are almost everywhere. The newspaper USA Today says four hundred sixty million of the devices were sold last year alone. Sales are expected to increase to more than one billion by two thousand ten.

A new study has rated the environmental friendliness of top colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. A research group called the Sustainable Endowments Institute was responsible for the study. The group is part of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a non-profit organization that helps aid agencies.

Last month, the group released a report called the College Sustainability Report Card. It used the definition of the word sustainability provided by Business Week magazine. That definition is "meeting humanity's needs without harming future generations." The report attempts to measure the steps taken by higher education toward this goal.

The report rates one hundred public and private colleges and universities in North America on their environmental and investment policies. The colleges and universities included in the study are those with the largest amounts of money invested for future growth. The report says these one hundred schools hold more than two hundred fifty billion dollars in investments.

The study used information provided by ninety of the one hundred schools. Researchers looked for evidence of sustainable development in twenty-six different areas. They included improving energy use and officially working toward sustainability as a goal. Other areas were serving locally grown food and having buildings that cause little harm to the environment.

The researchers also studied the investment policies of the one hundred colleges and universities. They considered who helps decide what kinds of companies the schools invest in and how school officials control information about those investments.

The researchers compared the answers, and rated the colleges and universities across seven groups. Each school then received a final rating. Just four schools received the report's top rating. The four are Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Stanford University and Williams College.

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written by Nancy Steinbach and Caty Weaver. Brianna Blake was our producer. I'm Bob Doughty. And I'm Faith Lapidus. Learn more about science, and download transcripts and MP3 files of our programs, at voaspecialenglish.com. The Web site also has an Internet link to the full report by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. Listen again next week at this time for more news about science in SPECIAL ENGLISH on the Voice of America.


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Source: New Blood Test Can Show Patient's Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke
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