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Vol. LXIV, No. 14
July 6, 2012
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Digest

For Young Children with Autism, Directing Attention Boosts Language

An intervention in which adults actively engaged the attention of autistic preschoolers by pointing to toys and using other gestures to focus their attention results in a long-term increase in language skills.
An intervention in which adults actively engaged the attention of autistic preschoolers by pointing to toys and using other gestures to focus their attention results in a long-term increase in language skills.

An intervention in which adults actively engaged the attention of preschool children with autism by pointing to toys and using other gestures to focus their attention results in a long-term increase in language skills, according to researchers supported by NIH.

At age 8, children with autism who received therapy centered on sharing attention and play when they were 3 or 4 years old had stronger vocabularies and more advanced language skills than did children who received standard therapy. All of the children in the study attended preschool for 30 hours each week.

“Some studies have indicated that such pre-verbal interactions provide the foundation for building later language skills,” said Dr. Alice Kau of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch, NICHD. “This study confirms that intensive therapy to engage the attention of young children with autism helps them acquire language faster and build lasting language skills.”

The study findings appeared in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Adding Drug to HIV Regimen Halves Newborn Transmission Rate

Adding the drug nevirapine to the regimen given to newborns of women diagnosed with HIV shortly before or during labor halves the newborns’ risk of contracting the virus, according to findings by an NIH research network.

The researchers found that the rate of mother-to-child HIV transmission around the time of delivery was 2.2 percent among infants who received the standard drug zidovudine combined with nevirapine, compared with 4.8 percent among infants treated with zidovudine alone.

The researchers also found a reduced rate of transmission (2.4 percent) among infants treated with a three-drug combination: zidovudine, nelfinavir and lamivudine. However, infants given the two-drug combination were less likely to have neutropenia than were those on the three drug regimen. (Neutropenia is a blood disorder consisting of low levels of neutrophils, a type of infection-fighting white blood cell.) The two-drug combination is also less expensive and easier to administer than the three-drug combination.

“Pregnant women who don’t know they have HIV or those who don’t come in for prenatal care may not get the early treatment needed to keep the virus from being passed on to the baby,” said study author Dr. Heather Watts of the Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal AIDS Branch, NICHD. “Our findings show that even in these situations, many, many infant cases of HIV can be prevented with the two-drug combination treatment.”

The findings appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Weight-Loss Surgery Increases Alcohol Use Disorders over Time

Adults who had a common bariatric surgery to lose weight had a significantly higher risk of alcohol use disorders (AUD) 2 years after surgery, according to a study by an NIH research consortium.

Researchers investigated alcohol consumption and alcohol use disorders symptoms in 1,945 participants from the NIH-funded Longitudinal Assessment of Bariatric Surgery, a prospective study of patients undergoing weight-loss surgery at one of 10 hospitals across the United States. Within 30 days before surgery, and again 1 and 2 years after surgery, study participants completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification test (AUDIT). The test, developed by the World Health Organization, identifies symptoms of alcohol use disorders, a condition that includes alcohol abuse and dependence, commonly known as alcoholism.

Study participants were categorized as having AUD if they had at least one symptom of alcohol dependence, which included not being able to stop drinking once started, or alcohol-related harm, which included not being able to remember, or if their total AUDIT score was at least 8 (out of 40).

Although AUD prior to surgery was one of the strongest predictors of AUD after surgery, more than half of study participants with AUD after surgery did not report having the condition during the year before surgery. Men and younger adults were also more likely to develop AUD.

The study appeared in JAMA’s June 20 issue.


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