Vaccine Effective Against Meningitis, Possibly Ear Infections

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An experimental vaccine for children has proved highly effective in fighting meningitis and bloodstream infection and may protect against ear infections and pneumonia, a study has found.

The vaccine protects against the pneumococcus bacterium, which causes such diseases as bacterial meningitis, bacteremia or bloodstream infection, pneumonia, and otitis media, the common childhood ear infection.

In the United States, infants and young children are at the greatest risk for invasive pneumococcal disease; more than 10,000 cases are reported each year in that age group, the report says.

"We are especially hopeful the vaccine will prevent a significant number of ear infections in children of all ages," Dr. Steven Black, a co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center, said in a written statement.

The Oakland, Calif.-based center conducted the three-year study, which involved more than 38,000 children. The study results were presented late last month at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Diego.

"There is no vaccine that works in children to prevent pneumococcal disease," said Dr. Margaret B. Rennels, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland school of medicine and the lead author of an associated study, which was published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics. "Right now, all we can say for sure is that [the experimental vaccine] prevents meningitis and bloodstream infection."

But, Dr. Rennels said, doctors will readily accept the vaccine if it prevents ear infections.

Wyeth Lederle Vaccines is developing the vaccine tested in the clinical trial and will seek approval for its use from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next year.

Sports and Sex: Boys who play sports are more likely to be sexually active than their peers, but the opposite seems to hold true for girls, a recent study suggests.

The study published in the June issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior surveyed 611 high school students, male and female, athletes and nonathletes.

The study looked at variables in sexual activity, including overall number of sex partners, frequency of intercourse during the past year, and age of first intercourse.

The study found that girl athletes had substantially fewer partners, engaged in sexual intercourse less frequently, and began having sex at a later age than their nonathletic female peers.

"These girls have more self-confidence and are in a better position to say no," said Kathleen E. Miller, an assistant sociology professor at George Washington University and the author of the study.

"Girls involved in sports are rethinking their images," she added. "They see their bodies as tools to be used rather than objects to be desired."

The picture was different for boys. Boys who took part in athletic activities reported beginning sexual activity at a younger age, having more partners, and having more sexual experience overall than their nonathletic male peers, although the differences were slight, Ms. Miller said.

Religion and Drugs: Religion is a major factor in whether a teenager chooses to use cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs, a recent survey indicates.

Among teenagers who attended religious services four times a month, 8 percent smoke, 19 percent drank alcohol, and 13 percent used marijuana, the survey by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found.

But among those who attended religious services less than once a month, 22 percent smoked, 32 percent drank alcohol, and 39 percent used marijuana.

Parents and churches need to play a part in keeping children away from those substances, Joseph A. Califano Jr., the center's president, said in a written statement. "[Teenagers] need to develop the moral values and individual strength to say no."

The study also found that parent involvement in a teenager's life also curbed such habits.

Teenagers who regularly ate dinner with their parents or told them where they would be going on the weekend or after school were less likely to smoke tobacco or marijuana or to drink alcohol.

The study surveyed 1,000 children ages 12 to 17 in May, June, and July of this year. The margin of error for this study is plus or minus 3.1 percent.


Vol. 18, Issue 6, Page 12

Published in Print: October 7, 1998, as Vaccine Effective Against Meningitis, Possibly Ear Infections
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