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September news tips from the UT Health Science Center

REMEMBERING 9-11 . . . Now is the time to contact the Office of External Affairs for interviews about the day that changed the life of America — Sept. 11, 2001. Health Science Center experts include Harold Timboe, M.D., the then-commander of Walter Reed Army Hospital who recently was named associate vice president for administration at UTHSCSA. Injury victims from the Sept. 11 crash at the Pentagon were sent to Walter Reed for treatment. Other Health Science Center experts are able to discuss the nation's psyche one year after the tragedies, anthrax and other weapons used in bioterrorism, San Antonio's response preparedness for such a disaster, and other topics.

SLOWING THE SPEED TRAP . . . Can the oral drug ondansetron, already shown to be effective at halting the cravings of early onset alcoholics, be used to treat methamphetamine dependence? That's a topic of study for the Health Science Center's Bankole A. Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues at the university's Southwest Texas Addiction Research & Technology (START) Center. A national upsurge in the use of methamphetamine, also known as "speed," "meth" and "chalk," makes the START research all the more relevant. Meth is the primary form of amphetamine abused in this country. According to federal statistics, amphetamine treatment admission rates increased by 250 percent or more in 14 states between 1993 and 1999 and between 100 percent and 249 percent in another 10 states. The Health Science Center is one of seven sites for the meth treatment program, which is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Dr. Johnson, the principal investigator, is the Wurzbach Distinguished Professor at UTHSCSA and is a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology.

STILL WARY OF WEST NILE . . . The new virus sweeping Texas — West Nile — will be a threat for several more weeks, says Carlos R. Jaén, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of the department of family and community medicine at the Health Science Center. "We need to watch out for it until November," Dr. Jaén said. "Statistics from the past three years show that as long as mosquitoes are breeding, there is a risk." Symptoms of the virus include lymph node enlargement, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, rash and eye pain. Cases have been reported in several Texas counties, including Harris (Houston), where one woman apparently died of the virus. West Nile Virus was first isolated in the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937. It is part of the Japanese encephalitis family. Dr. Jaén occupies the Dr. John M. Smith, Jr. Professorship in Family Practice.

Contact: Will Sansom