Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 2, 2013
A physician-supervised food challenge is often needed to determine whether someone is truly allergic.
If you suspect that you or your child have food allergies, you may want to visit an allergist. “Unfortunately, food allergies are often over-diagnosed. For example, approximately 9 percent of the U.S. population tests positive for peanut allergy, yet only 2 percent are truly allergic,” says Dr. Jessica Savage, an allergist who sees both adults and children in the Department of Allergy and Immunology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
If you test positive for a food allergy, your allergist may recommend a food challenge: eating the food under physician observation. Because food allergy testing is imprecise, this is often needed to truly determine if you are allergic or not, or if you have outgrown your allergies. After a successful food challenge, it is generally safe to reintroduce the suspect food into the diet.
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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 12, 2013
Nearly ten percent of adults with asthma have a sensitivity to aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Do you experience watery eyes, stuffy nose, coughing, sinus pain, or chest tightness after taking pain medications like aspirin or ibuprofen? If so, you may have something known as aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD). Nearly ten percent of adults with asthma have AERD, which is characterized by a sensitivity to aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen, nasal polyps, and recurrent sinus infections.
“This is a fairly common condition that is linked with a multitude of chronic health issues,” says Dr. Tanya M. Laidlaw, an allergist in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Desensitization Program. “Even with complete avoidance of aspirin and NSAIDs, people with AERD continue to experience ongoing symptoms.”
The good news is that AERD (also called Samter’s Triad) can often be effectively treated with aspirin desensitization, a therapy that involves slowly increasing doses of aspirin throughout the course of a single day. Most patients are treated in an outpatient clinic setting, where reactions are closely monitored and managed. After the desensitization, patients continue to take aspirin daily to maintain treatment response.
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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 27, 2013
Tip #9: Be active!
To conclude American Heart Month, we’re featuring ten health tips that were presented by Brigham and Women’s Hospital women’s health experts, Dr. JoAnne Foody and Dr. Paula Johnson, at the Boston Go Red for Women Educational Forum. (Go Red for Women, sponsored by the American Heart Association, occurs each February to educate all women about the need to take care of their hearts.)
Men take note, these tips can benefit you, too – heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Check back with us as we publish new tips through the end of February.
7. IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR PROVIDERS.
Ask Me 3™ is a patient education program to promote communication between health care providers and patients to help improve health outcomes. The program encourages patients to understand the answers to three questions:
- What is my main problem?
- What do I need to do?
- Why is it important for me to do this?
Patients should be encouraged to ask their providers these three simple but essential questions in every health care interaction. Likewise, providers should always encourage their patients to understand the answers to these three questions. Studies show that people who thoroughly understand health instructions make fewer mistakes when they take their medicine or prepare for a medical procedure. They also may get well sooner or be able to better manage a chronic health condition.
TIP: Bring all of your medications (including over the counter) to your annual physical.
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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 19, 2012
Pamela and Patrick, parents of Alanna (donor) and Ryan (recipient), with their transplant surgeon, Dr. Craig Lillehei, at Boston Children's Hospital last year.
Dr. Joseph Murray, who received the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology in 1990 for his contributions to the field of human organ transplantation, passed away on November 26, 2012. He was 93 years old. A gifted surgeon, brilliant scientist, and devoted teacher, Dr. Murray and his team completed the first successful human organ transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in 1954, helping to forge the path for a new field in medicine that has since saved countless lives. Dr. Murray’s work has special meaning for a member of the BWH Marketing team, who shared her story.
When I first starting working at BWH, I was on my way to a meeting when I came across the display about Dr. Joseph E. Murray. I’d long been aware of his pioneering work in kidney transplants, but standing there reading about it and seeing his Nobel medal in person was quite a moving experience for me.
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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 28, 2012
Dr. Robert Green, winner of the first BRIght Futures Prize.
On November 15, 2012, the Biomedical Research Institute (BRI) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) held its first Research Day. The day-long public celebration featured a discussion on the importance of medical research and included 150 poster presentations by leading BWH researchers on today’s hottest health topics, such as obesity, healthy aging, and personalized medicine.
But the highlight of BWH Research Day was the announcement of Dr. Robert Green as the winner of the $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize. Just as exciting: the use of crowdsourcing, or relying on the collective wisdom of groups, to choose the winner.
Dr. Green was named the winner after nearly 6,500 people from around the world voted for the three finalists online. Dr. Green and his research team are searching for effective and responsible ways to use DNA sequencing technology in newborns to help families understand a child’s genetic risk for developing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
In addition to Dr. Green’s project, the other finalists included a project jointly led by Drs. Phil DeJager and Elizabeth Karlson, whose proposal focused on using genetics and electronic health records to treat multiple sclerosis and a project led by Dr. Robert Plenge, whose proposal focused on the use of technology to unravel the mysteries of the immune system. Read our recent blog post to learn and view more about all three projects.
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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 4, 2012
We have three great medical research ideas – but only one prize.
The Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Biomedical Research Institute (BRI) is going to award its first-ever $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize to one of three entrants next month, and they’re looking for your help.
Earlier this year, the BRI asked BWH staff to submit provocative medical questions that they would like to see answered by their research colleagues. From these responses, BRI leadership selected two themes and invited the BWH research community to design research projects to address these themes. These three projects were selected as finalists:
Exploring Genome Sequencing of Newborns – to determine responsible ways to use DNA sequencing to enhance patient care.
Robert C. Green, MD, MPH, BWH Division of Genetics, Department of Medicine
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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 17, 2012
Illustration: HIV particle (right) attacking a healthy cell.
Five years ago, an American man with HIV underwent stem cell transplantation for leukemia while living in Berlin. Since then, he has had no reappearance of his HIV.
It appears that promising results also are being seen in two Boston-area patients with HIV who recently received stem cell transplants for cancer at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. Since the transplants, both patients have shown no evidence of HIV in their blood or blood plasma, and their HIV antibody levels are dropping.
“The decreasing HIV antibody levels are significant, as they indicate that little, if any, HIV protein still exists to trigger response,” says Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, a specialist in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Division of Infectious Disease.
The Berlin patient’s donor carried a mutation that eliminated a key receptor for HIV, rendering him resistant to HIV infection and able to discontinue antiretroviral medications for HIV. Both Boston-area patients remain on antiretroviral medications for HIV, as their donors did not carry this mutation. Dr. Kuritzkes explains that these patients can’t be declared “cured” unless they have been off these medications for months to years with no spike in HIV antibody levels in their blood. Still, the results so far are encouraging and present a possible treatment option for HIV and AIDS.
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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 9, 2012
Recent BWH research about germs and how our body fights them can help us build better vaccines.
Science is ever-evolving. What we know about germs and how our body fights them is no exception – and it’s leading BWH researchers to build better vaccines.
In high school biology, I recall watching an animation of immune cells fighting off germs. In the animation, a virus – pictured as a gooey ball covered in spiky nodules – enters the blood stream, a fluid mixture of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The white blood cells (our immune cells, including both T- and B-cells) suddenly spring into action, identify the invading force, and attack it. The germ (and any offspring it introduced to the system) is killed. But the immune cells file that germ type in their memory and, like soldiers on guard, stand ever-ready to attack – this time stronger and faster – should that germ type ever try to invade again.
According to the latest research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, that old animation isn’t entirely wrong. But it’s not the whole story either.
It’s true that germs – which can take the form of viruses, bacteria, or fungi and can invade our body through our skin, GI tract, lungs, or oral or reproductive linings – set disease in motion. And although my high school animation wasn’t clear on this part, scientists have long known that our T-cells don’t just wait in the blood stream. If a germ enters through the skin, for instance, the T-cells rush there, enter the tissues, and kill the virus.
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Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 14, 2012
Cassidy is one of more than two million Americans living with celiac disease.
I recently received a cheerful yet sobering text message from my teenage niece, Cassidy. In the midst of the usual niceties, she casually informed me that she was diagnosed with celiac disease, a condition caused by intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat and other common grains. As an unrestrained cookie consumer, I found this to be troubling news indeed.
Celiac disease is characterized by a slew of unpleasant symptoms, including abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. It is classified as an autoimmune disease, not a food allergy. Consequently, there are significant differences between celiac disease and a food allergy, but there are also significant similarities. Among the most significant is that they both involve an inappropriate reaction by the immune system to a normally harmless food.
Fortunately, there is an effective treatment for celiac disease, and it’s quite simple: stick to a lifelong gluten-free diet. Unfortunately, that means that my niece will have to commit to lifetime of forgoing her mother’s homemade macaroni and cheese and a cornucopia of other wheat flour-based treats. Doable? Yes. Desirable? No.
But my niece is far from alone in her dietary restrictions. How many of us today know someone who has celiac disease or a food allergy, but, not so many years ago, didn’t know of a single person who had either? Research shows that young people are 4.5 times more likely to have celiac disease today than they were in the 1950s. And a recent report from the National Institutes of Health Expert Panel on Food Allergy Research found that food allergies overall appear to be increasing, with peanut allergies growing dramatically. This is supported by the observations of Dr. Joshua Boyce, a researcher and allergist at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Allergy and Immunology practice in Chestnut Hill. “It seems the primary reason for referring now to a pediatric allergist is food allergy,” said Boyce. “You could almost say it’s not a disease anymore. It’s part of the human condition.”
So why have food allergies and autoimmune disorders increased so dramatically in recent years?
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