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June news tips from the UT Health Science Center

FIBROMYALGIA FINDING . . . A central nervous system secretion called "substance P" is elevated in most patients with the painful rheumatic condition fibromyalgia. I. Jon Russell, M.D., associate professor of medicine at the Health Science Center, found this to be true in a Caucasian/Hispanic population in 1994. Dr. Russell, one of the nation's leading experts on the mysterious syndrome, now reports that a medicine called Tizanidine HCI (Zanaflex®, Elan Pharmaceuticals) reduced substance P levels by about 25 percent in a population of 23 fibromyalgia sufferers, mostly female. The subjects reported sleeping better, feeling less pain and experiencing less anxiety and depression. "Much more study needs to be done, but the medication appeared to be effective in this limited trial and caused few adverse effects," Dr. Russell said.

HELP WITH HEPATITIS . . . About 4 million Americans are infected with acute hepatitis C virus (HCV), and 8,000 to 10,000 die each year from the chronic liver disease.1 The Hepatitis Clinic at the University Health Center Downtown, one of the Health Science Center's clinical sites, is a leading care provider for patients from San Antonio and South Texas. "We have seen 1,183 new patients with hepatitis C since February 2000," said Clinic Director Anastacio M. Hoyumpa, M.D., professor of medicine at the Health Science Center. Preliminary findings from clinic studies suggest Hispanics may be more likely to develop cirrhosis, a liver complication, from hepatitis C than non-Hispanic Caucasians and African Americans. The center also is analyzing ethnic susceptibility to the other forms of viral hepatitis (A and B) and the need to vaccinate against them.

HEALTHY SWIMMING . . . Swimmer's ear isn't the only thing a child can pick up at the pool or lake this summer. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 15,000 people became ill from swimming during the past decade. Parents should be especially vigilant with their pint-sized swimmers. "Chlorinated water generally is effective at killing off infectious organisms, but when there are large numbers of people in swimming pools, especially children in diapers, the risk increases of becoming sick, particularly from food- or water-borne diseases," said Karl E. Klose, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology at the Health Science Center. Children should be reminded not to swallow water, and parents should not change diapers at the poolside, as that can spread germs. Swimmers should wash hands after all trips to the bathroom, because germs on hands can end up in the water.

1Source: The American Liver Foundation,

Contact: Will Sansom or Aileen Salinas