December Health Pearls: Gardasil 9 Vaccine: Pollution Exposure and Risk of Autism, Dysfuntional Sleep and Childhood Obesity

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December 28, 2014

1.  Gardasil 9, the New Version of A Cervical Cancer Vaccine. 

Earlier this month, the FDA approved the Gardasil 9, Merck’s new version of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, to be given to females from 9-26 year old, and males from 9-15 years old.  Gardasil protects the recipients against nine strains of HPV, as compared to the original Gardasil, approved since 2006, which protects them from four HPV strains.  

The new version of Gardasil potentially prevents roughly 90% of cervical, anal, vulva and vaginal cancers.  Merck used data from 13,000 recipients of the vaccine.  Like the original vaccine, Gardasil 9’s most common side effects are those from the injection itself such as pain, redness and swelling.

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2.  Air Pollution and Increased Risk of Autism.

A Harvard School of Public Health study, published recently in Environmental Health Perspectives, reported a doubling of autism incidence in mothers being exposed to high levels of pollution.

In this study, using the mothers’ home addresses to identify the location of pollution exposure, the researchers found a potential link to autism in 245 children out of 1,767 children studied.  Dr. Marc Weisskopf, the lead researcher, agreed that in addition to genetic propensities of autism, the environment can play a significant factor.  Several studies in the past have also cited environmental factors such as pollution as a potential risk for autism.  Until further studies are conducted, pregnant women should minimize their exposure to pollutants, as these pollutants can potentially cross the placenta and affect the babies’ brain health.

3.  Early Childhood Sleep Abnormalities Increase Risk For Obesity.

A study from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y., published online on December 11 in the Journal of Pediatrics, reported a link between sleep abnormalities in early childhood and obesity in later years.  

In this study, data from 1,844 children, born in southwest England between 1991 to 1992, were analyzed.  Mothers of these children reported symptoms of sleep disorders including abnormal patterns of breathing such as snoring, mouth breathing and episodes of sleep apnea.  Body Mass Index (BMI), using height and weight of these children was calculated in later years, at 7, 10 and 15 years of age.  Children with the most severe sleep breathing abnormalities at 2.5 years old were found to be twice as likely to be obese in later years as compared to those with normal breathing patterns.  Children who had a shorter sleep duration (less than 10 hours a night) at 5-6 years old were found to be twice as likely to be obese at 15 years old than those who slept more.

Karen Bonuck,Ph.D, the lead researcher, and her associates believe that their study confirms the importance of healthy sleeping as a preventive measure against childhood and, potentially, adult obesity.