Month: November 2020

Brain activity in infants predicts language outcomes in autism spectrum disorder

first_imgEmail Pinterest LinkedIn Share on Twitter Share on Facebookcenter_img Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can produce strikingly different clinical outcomes in young children, with some having strong conversation abilities and others not talking at all. A study published by Cell Press April 9th in Neuron reveals the reason: At the very first signs of possible autism in infants and toddlers, neural activity in language-sensitive brain regions is already similar to normal in those ASD toddlers who eventually go on to develop good language ability but nearly absent in those who later have a poor language outcome.“Why some toddlers with ASD get better and develop good language and others do not has been a mystery that is of the utmost importance to solve,” says senior author Eric Courchesne, co-director of the UC San Diego Autism Center, where the study was designed and conducted. “Discovering the early neural bases for these different developmental trajectories now opens new avenues to finding causes and treatments specific to these two very different subtypes of autism.”The researchers studied 60 ASD and 43 non-ASD infants and toddlers using the natural sleep functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) method developed by the UCSD Autism Center investigators to record brain activity in the participants as they listened to excerpts from children’s stories. All toddlers were clinically followed until early childhood to make a final determination of which ones eventually had good versus poor language outcomes. In ASD, good language outcomes by early childhood were preceded by normal patterns of neural activity in language-sensitive brain regions, including superior temporal cortex, during infant and toddler ages. By contrast, ASD children with poor language outcomes showed very little activity in superior temporal cortex when they were toddlers or infants.“Our study is important because it’s one of the first large-scale studies to identify very early neural precursors that help to differentiate later emerging and clinically relevant heterogeneity in early language development in ASD toddlers,” says first author Michael Lombardo of the University of Cyprus.The researchers also found that, when combined with behavioral tests, these striking early neural differences may help predict later language outcome by early childhood. The prognostic accuracy of the combined neural and behavioral measures was 80%, compared with 68% for each measure alone. “One of the first things parents of a toddler with ASD want to know is what lies ahead for their child,” says co-author Karen Pierce, also co-director of the UC San Diego Autism Center. “These findings open insight into the first steps that lead to different clinical and treatment outcomes, and in the future, one can imagine clinical evaluation and treatment planning incorporating multiple accurate behavioral and medical prognostic assessments. That would be a huge practical benefit for families.”Moving forward, the researchers will further investigate the early neural functional substrates that precede and underlie language and social heterogeneity in ASD. They also plan to test the idea that activation, or its absence, in language cortex predicts treatment responsiveness in toddlers with ASD. Moreover, future research on the molecular underpinnings of variable clinical outcomes in individuals with ASD could pave the way for the development of novel pharmacological interventions. “Understanding that there are discrete subgroups of early developing ASD that are distinguished by developmental behavioral trajectories, neural underpinnings, and brain-behavioral relationships, really lays the groundwork for a whole range of really fruitful directions,” Lombardo says. Sharelast_img read more

Self-harm, suicide ideation tightly linked in Iraq, Afghanistan veterans

first_imgShare Pinterest Email LinkedIn Non-suicidal self-injury–that is, purposefully hurting oneself without conscious suicidal intent–is relatively common among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, according to a study published online April 1, 2015, in Psychiatry Research. The research, conducted by Dr. Nathan Kimbrel, a research psychologist at the Durham VA Medical Center, included 151 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Of those, 14 percent reported a history of non-suicidal self-injury, or NSSI.Moreover, the study found that those who deliberately hurt themselves were more likely to engage in suicidal behavior. The researchers hope that NSSI could serve as a marker for identifying which veterans are most likely to attempt suicide.For the study, Kimbrel and his colleagues recruited Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at the Central Texas VA Health Care System. The researchers excluded those with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, but they included a higher-than-average proportion of veterans with PTSD. In the final study group, 35 percent had PTSD, 21 percent had depression, and 8 percent had alcohol use disorder. More than 90 percent of group was male and 67 percent were white.center_img After identifying suicidal ideation via a standardized screening questionnaire, the researchers further classified the participants as having either passive or active suicidal ideation.Passive suicidal ideation could be described, says Kimbrel, as wishing you would go to sleep and not wake up. Active suicidal ideation is characterized by actually thinking about specific ways to end one’s life.Kimbrel found that NSSI was most strongly associated with active suicidal ideation. Specifically, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who reported a history of NSSI were five times more likely to engage in active suicidal ideation, compared with veterans without a history of NSSI.“These are people who are purposefully engaging in bodily harm, but the intent is not to commit suicide,” says Kimbrel. “There are many reasons why they do this, but this behavior is associated with increased odds of eventually attempting suicide.”Kimbrel points to cutting oneself as the most commonly thought-of form of NSSI. “But there are a wide range of non-suicidal self-injurious behaviors that Veterans might be engaging in that clinicians should be aware of, such as burning or hitting oneself,” notes Kimbrel.Another recent study by Kimbrel’s team that was published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress in 2014 found that more than half of 214 male Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seeking treatment for PTSD reported engaging in NSSI during their lifetime. Forty-five percent reported NSSI during the previous two weeks.Those same veterans were nearly four times more likely to engage in suicidal ideation, compared with veterans seeking treatment for PTSD but without a history of NSSI.“Among veterans, burning and hitting appear to be the specific forms of NSSI most strongly associated with suicidal ideation,” says Kimbrel. Veterans who reported burning themselves were 17 times more likely to engage in suicidal ideation, compared with similar veterans who did not report NSSI. Veterans who reported hitting themselves were nearly eight times more likely to have suicidal ideation.“Obviously, the rates of suicidal ideation that we identified among veterans engaging in these forms of NSSI were much higher than what we typically see among patients seeking treatment for PTSD,” says Kimbrel.According to Kimbrel, NSSI may increase a person’s capacity to commit suicide. This ties in with a theory originally described by Florida State University’s Dr. Thomas Joiner in his 2005 book Why People Die By Suicide. The theory is that suicide essentially requires two components to align, a desire and a capacity.According to Kimbrel, NSSI, along with the kind of violence often encountered in combat, can increase people’s capability for suicide by mitigating some of their natural, innate responses to injury.Kimbrel’s hope is that by expanding suicidal assessments of veterans to include NSSI information, providers can better identify those at high risk for suicide long before they ever make an attempt.“If we can identify veterans engaging in NSSI early on, then hopefully we can begin to change their trajectory and put them onto a more positive course,” says Kimbrel. “There are treatments that can help. The most important thing is to get veterans at increased risk for suicide into treatment as soon as possible.” Share on Twitter Share on Facebooklast_img read more

Risk for sleep disorders among college freshmen may predict retention, success

first_imgPinterest Share on Facebook Share on Twitter The study group comprised of entering freshmen screened for risk for sleep disorders using a validated survey. Participants were examined over a three-year period to see if they were likely to leave the institution or have a lower GPA. LinkedIncenter_img Email A new study suggests that the risk for sleep disorders among college freshmen may be a predictor of retention and academic success.Results show that students at risk for a sleep disorder were more likely to leave the institution over the three-year period, although this association was weakened when covariates were included. Risk for sleep disorder also predicted grade point average (GPA) at the end of the first and second years.‘A survey that screens for sleep disorders administered when students first enter college may identify a potentially modifiable risk factor for leaving before completing a degree,’ said lead author Jane Gaultney, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented Wednesday, June 10, in Seattle, Wash., at SLEEP 2015, the 29th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC. Sharelast_img read more

Employee recognition programs can reduce firm-level productivity

first_imgLinkedIn Share on Facebook Email “The common knowledge is that non-monetary awards can subtly motivate people in ways that are fundamentally different to financial reward programs, such as by increasing organizational loyalty, encouraging friendly competition, or increasing employees’ self-esteem,” Gubler said. “In fact, past research has focused almost exclusively on the benefits of these programs, and the costs have been considered negligible.”To explore the potential downsides of award programs, the researchers used field data from an attendance award program implemented at one of five industrial laundry plants in the Midwest United States. With the plant relying heavily on worker efficiency for overall productivity, the program was designed to recognize all employees with perfect attendance — defined as coming on time to work and not having any unexcused absences. Each month, employees with perfect attendance were recognized at a plant-wide meeting, with one person receiving a $75 gift card through a random draw.Using data from the company and a statistics technique called difference-in-differences (DiD), the researchers analyzed data from all five plants both before and after the award was implemented, exploring the award’s effects on individual workers’ performance and plant productivity as a whole. The found:Reward-motivated employees responded positively to the awards by reducing tardiness, but gamed the system to maintain eligibility using sick days and reverted back to poor attendance behavior when they lost eligibility in a given month.The awards crowded out intrinsic motivation in internally-motivated employees, who were already performing well by coming on time in the absence of rewards. These employees had increased tardiness after the program was implemented and they lost eligibility.The awards decreased motivation and productivity for internally-motivated workers, suggesting these employees were unhappy because of fairness and equity concerns.In total, the award program cost the plant 1.4 percent of daily productivity, mainly because of the lost productivity by internally-motivated employees.Gubler said the research is among the first to show that motivational awards can be costly to firms, rather than beneficial.“Conscientious internally-motivated employees who were performing well before the award program was introduced felt the program was unfair, as it upset the balance of what was perceived as equitable or fair in the organization. So their performance suffered — not just in terms of their attendance but also through a motivational spillover that affected other areas of their work — including productivity,” he said.Gubler said firms should carefully consider not only the benefits but also the costs of implementing such programs, and realize an award can cause the same issues as a bonus or other compensation.“Employees value workplace fairness and they care about how they’re perceived relative to others in the organization. To be effective, companies offering award programs need to consider not only the group they are targeting — such as those that are coming late to work — but also those that are already doing the right thing, as there is a possibility of demotivating some of their best employees.” Sharecenter_img More than 80 percent of companies use award programs like “Employee of the Month” and “Top Sales Club” to motivate employees and increase performance. While the conventional wisdom is that such awards are cheap and can provide a subtle way to motivate employees, these programs might be reducing firms’ overall productivity, according to a new study led by a researcher at the University of California, Riverside.Recently accepted for publication in the journal Organization Science, “Motivational Spillovers from Awards: Crowding Out in a Multitasking Environment” is the first academic study to show that seemingly innocuous non-financial award programs can be costly to firms, primarily because they can upset the status quo and influence perceptions of equity and fairness. This can lead to internally motivated employees becoming disenfranchised. The study was led by Timothy Gubler, assistant professor of management in UCR’s School of Business Administration, together with Ian Larkin from the University of California, Los Angeles, and Lamar Pierce from Washington University in St. Louis.For years, researchers have studied the unintentional side effects of monetary rewards that tie pay with performance. Such rewards can reduce employees’ intrinsic motivation, cause workers to focus less on tasks not recognized financially, and lead to a tendency for employees to play or “game” the system. Conversely, non-monetary recognitions and small nominal awards like gift cards are widely believed to avoid these unintended consequences and present a costless way to motivate employees. Share on Twitter Pinterestlast_img read more

Psychologists uncover a prototypical vision of ‘wisdom’ shared across North American cultures

first_imgLinkedIn Email Pinterest The authors examined cultural-historical exemplars, provided by 209 Canadians and Americans in open-ended responses to a series of questions, and analyzed this research by generating three wisdom prototypes based on grouping the most prevalent examples from the first study.Over 100 different exemplars were mentioned during the study, but certain names, like Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., were more prevalent.Weststrate and colleagues found that the most frequently mentioned exemplars clustered into three basic “wisdom” prototypes: practical (Lincoln, Franklin), philosophical (Socrates, King Solomon), and benevolent (MLK Jr, Mother Teresa). They completed this task by utilizing data from 202 Americans, who were presented with all possible pairings of the most commonly named exemplars and asked to rate how similar they were to each other.While the benevolent and philosophical prototypes were often rated as wiser than the practical prototype, the researchers found 70% of the exemplars represented practical wisdom, 32% benevolent and 12% philosophical. Practical wisdom includes those who have insight into real-life issues and work strategically to deal with social problems.“We hope this research influences our evolving understanding of the concept of wisdom as far as psychological theories are concerned,” says Weststrate. “Wisdom is a quintessentially “human” concept, so the average person should have a good sense of what it is–their perspectives are an important source of information for psychologists to consider.”The authors remind us that no one type of wisdom is “best” and hope to conduct similar analyses across other cultures, “because the average person’s implicit theories are hugely affected by cultural factors,” says Weststrate. Further research could find other prototypes that “illuminate what people are striving for and how this differs regionally and globally.” Share on Facebookcenter_img Share Benjamin Franklin, Socrates, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa: All well-recognized names. In a recent study from Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers studying Americans and Canadians found preferences for practical wisdom when people were asked to name important figures and tell stories about their wisdom.Psychologists Nic Weststrate and Michel Ferrari (University of Toronto) along with Sociologist Monika Ardelt (University of Florida) studied average people to determine how everyday people understand wisdom and uncovered a set of characteristics shared across North America that shape today’s prototypical vision of “wisdom.”“In North America, wisdom is a somewhat diverse concept–there is more than one way to be wise and each manifestation of wisdom has merits from a societal perspective,” says Weststrate. Share on Twitterlast_img read more

Democratic female leaders viewed as less capable of handling terrorism in times of threat: study

first_imgPinterest Share on Facebook Email Share Share on Twittercenter_img LinkedIn Therefore, two important patterns regularly emerge regarding opinions on leadership in times on terrorist threat. Firstly, women tend to be less preferred in leadership roles in times of national security threat. Secondly, research has shown that the Republican Party is perceived as being stronger on leadership qualities and on national security issues.The study, by Mirya Holman (Tulane University), Jennifer Merolla (University of California), and Elizabeth Zechmeister (Vanderbilt University), used 2 surveys completed by members of the U.S public to test these patterns in combination. Survey 1 asked 1,492 people about worry over terrorist threat and preferences for male versus female leadership. Survey 2 asked 845 respondents to indicate what type of politician they believe is best capable of handling the issue of terrorism: Republican female, Republican male, Democratic female, or Democratic male.The results of Study 1 revealed that worry about terrorism is positively related to general preferences over male versus female leadership. These findings agree with existing research suggesting that female leaders are disadvantaged in times of national security threat.Study 2 revealed that when faced with the issue of terrorism, the U.S. public is likely to prefer male Republican leadership, whilst being least likely to want female Democratic leadership.The findings suggest that Democratic females experience a disadvantage because being male allows the Democratic men to overcome party stereotypes in times of threat. However, these negative gender effects to not appear to impact upon Republican female candidates, suggesting that party can be more important than gender to voter evaluations.“The Republican female candidate was—all else equal—immune to these negative effects, a result in accord with our assertion that Republican partisanship counters the male stereotype,” the researchers said.The study provides clear evidence that Democratic female leaders are considered less capable of handling terrorism when worry about terror is high. The findings could be particularly relevant for the 2016 presidential election.“Our results leave open the notion that there could be other threat contexts, such as an economic downturn or health epidemics, that might be advantageous to women, particularly Democratic women, in their pursuit of political office,” the researchers noted. “In these cases, feminine stereotypes could be activated or deactivated in a way that advantages the Democratic Party and doubly advantages Democratic women.” Democratic female leaders are considered less capable of handling terrorism when worry about terror is high, according to a recent study published this February in Political Research Quarterly.The threat of terrorism has a lasting effect upon the people of the United States and the wider world. Unsurprisingly, this has been shown to influence the choices people make in elections, as people tend to look for strong leaders who are viewed as being capable of dealing with issues of national security.Research on gender stereotypes has shown that people believe that female politicians are more compassionate and trustworthy, are better able to handle children’s and women’s issues, and are more liberal and democratic. In contrast, male politicians are seen as more assertive, stronger leaders, better able to handle foreign affairs and defense, and more conservative.last_img read more

Study finds being in a car can impact distance judgements

first_imgShare A comparison of the results showed that people in cars underestimated distances to a significantly greater degree than pedestrians in either of the other conditions. It was also noted that the underestimations became larger as distance increased. Subjects who were allowed to drive first made larger underestimations than those who only sat in the car, but in this case there was no significant difference between the amount of misjudgment at each distance. There was no apparent difference in estimates between pedestrian groups (chair vs car-mimicking view).Based on the findings of this study, cars share a characteristic of other tools by changing the way we perceive our surrounding environments. It is possible that the effect is supported by an extension of the internal body-space schema to include distances that are considered to be reachable by using the car as a tool.This interpretation would be in agreement with a known effect of hand tools on proprioception (the “sensation” of space immediately adjacent to the body), though the addition of several meters to our sense of body ownership may be an excessive proposition and requires further examination. Familiarity with the vehicle may also play a part in modulating the effect, as subjects who were allowed to drive first seemed to be more accurate in far distance estimations. Share on Twitter Few would argue against the role of cars as an indispensable tool in everyday modern life. Still, this characterization is not often considered in experimental investigations. Previous studies have shown that hand tools impact human perceptions of close areas that can be reached by the tool.A 2016 article in the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review expands on the concept by examining how cars, as tools, can alter our judgements of far distances rather than close areas, since they enable us to reach these places where hand tools would not.Forty-five subjects were included in this study, 28 of which were female. They were asked to judge a variety of distances (4 to 20 meters) while sitting either in a chair or inside a Ford Escort. Participants in a driver group were allowed to drive the vehicle around the entire course twice before making their judgements, while a complimentary pedestrian group remained stationary. A control pedestrian condition was also included that mimicked the view from within a car without actually using a vehicle, to ensure that any effect would not be a result of simple occlusion. Share on Facebookcenter_img Email Pinterest LinkedInlast_img read more

Long-term meditators experience lucid dreams more frequently, study finds

first_imgLinkedIn New research published in Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice has found that advanced meditators tend to have more lucid dreams, in which the dreamer is aware they’re dreaming and can control the experience.“Many authors have pointed to strong conceptual and theoretical connections between meditation practice and lucid dreaming, but little empirical work has addressed this idea,” Benjamin Baird of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the corresponding author of the study. In the study, the researchers surveyed 38 long-term meditators and 140 non-meditators. The long-term meditators had been practicing meditation for at least 5 years and meditated at least 200 minutes per week on average. Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Emailcenter_img Pinterest Share Baird and his colleagues found that long-term meditators reported more frequent lucid dreams compared to the individuals without meditation experience. Those who scored higher on a specific measure of trait mindfulness — called Decentering — also tended to report more frequent lucid dreams. In particular, participants with greater “awareness of one’s experience with some distance and dis-identification rather than being carried away by one’s thoughts and feelings” had more lucid dreams on average.“People who regularly practice meditation report more frequent lucid dreams. This may be connected to differences in trait mindfulness that we observed, though further research is needed to test this idea,” Baird told PsyPost.The participants also underwent an 8-week introductory meditation training course. However, this intervention did not lead to any significant increases in lucid dream frequency.“We did not observe any pre-post changes in lucid dream frequency following participation in a mindfulness meditation course. Therefore, we did not observe a causal connection between meditation and lucid dream frequency,” Baird explained.More experience with meditation may be required for changes in lucid dreaming, the researchers said, or a third factor may explain the relationship.“It thus remains an open question whether meditation practice directly influences the frequency of lucid dreams. For example, it remains possible that long-term meditators have more frequent lucid dreams for some other reason (e.g., personality differences). More research is needed to determine the causal relationship between meditation practice and lucid dreaming,” Baird said.The study, “Increased Lucid Dream Frequency in Long-Term Meditators but not Following Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Training“, was authored by Benjamin Baird, Brady A. Riedner, Melanie Boly, Richard J. Davidson, and Giulio Tononi.last_img read more

Study: Intimacy with God is driving the gender difference in biblical literalism

first_imgShare A new study sheds light on why women are more likely than men to believe the Bible is literally true. The research, which appears in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, found evidence that intimacy with God explained the gender gap in biblical literalism.“There has been a steady stream of research trying to understand why women appear more religious than men, at least in the Western, Christian context,” said study author Blake Victor Kent, a research fellow at the Harvard/MGH Center on Genomics, Vulnerable Populations, and Health Disparities.“Some have suggested men might be more willing to risk damnation than women, that there may be some kind of physiological difference between them, or perhaps that women are uniquely compensated in terms of security or community stature when they deeply embrace religion. I have written before on attachment to God, which measures how emotionally connected people feel to God, and I suspected attachment might be able to offer some new insights to this debate.” LinkedIn Share on Facebook Share on Twittercenter_img Email The researchers analyzed data from 1,394 respondents in the national Baylor Religion Survey’s third wave. They found that attachment to God and seeking to establish a stronger connection with God were both associated with more literal views of the Bible. In other words, both men and women who took the Bible more literally were more likely to say they had “a warm relationship with God” and reported spending more time alone praying and reading the Bible. But women tended to report both stronger attachments to God and spending more time attempting to connect with God, which explained their higher rates of biblical literalism.“We found that while it’s true women take the Bible more literally than men, once attachment to God is accounted for that relationship disappears. So it’s really intimacy with God driving this difference, not gender per se,” Kent told PsyPost.“Our study indicates that those who feel closer emotionally to God tend to take the Bible more literally. We think this has to do with religious narratives in which God is thought of as a person you can talk to, a God who talks right back. That’s the tradition of the Hebrew scriptures, in which God speaks to prophets as they recorded his words, and in the New Testament where people interact with Jesus or receive insight from the Holy Spirit. “A lot of religious believers still think of God in these terms,” Kent explained. “Those that don’t often see God as more of a universal force or presence, and our study highlights differences with these groups. Those who think of God more personally are more likely to take the Bible literally (which we argue legitimizes God as a person you can talk to), and those who are less emotionally connected to God tend to back away from literalism.”The study — like all research — includes some limitations. The cross-sectional methodology, for instance, prevents the researchers from determining the direction of causality.“We really need to understand better the social and religious context for developing views of the Bible or joining a specific church/denomination that holds a particular view of the Bible. It would be easy to assume that emotional attachments to God and Bible views are mostly related to the kind of church people grow up in, but it’s not uncommon for religious believers to switch denominations as they age,” Kent explained.“Do those from literalist backgrounds leave for less literal churches when their spirituality doesn’t engage God in such a personal way? Do people from less literal backgrounds switch to literalist and conservative churches as they feel a desire to relate to God more personally? There is some research out there to indicate these types of dynamics are going on, but the picture is still a little fuzzy.”The study, “To Know and Be Known: An Intimacy‐Based Explanation for the Gender Gap in Biblical Literalism“, was authored by Blake Victor Kent and Christopher M. Pieper. Pinterestlast_img read more

NEWS SCAN: Quadrivalent flu shot trial in kids, aerosolized flu virus, ground-poultry safety steps

first_imgMar 8, 2013Quadrivalent flu shot trial shows promising benefits for kidsA study in children that compared an inactivated quadrivalent influenza vaccine (QIV) against two trivalent inactivated vaccines containing different flu B strains found the QIV more immunogenic against the unmatched B strain. The randomized, double-blind trial involving GlaxoSmithKline’s QIV candidate appeared in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. The results are based on evaluation of 2,738 children 3 to 17 years old in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, the Philippines, and the United States from Oct 2010 to June 2011. Researchers also assessed QIV in a separate group of children ages 6 through 35 months old. After randomizing children to QIV or one of the TIV groups, researchers obtained blood samples 28 days after vaccination and conduced hemagglutination-inhibition tests to assess immunogenicity. They found that QIV was as immunogenic as TIV for the shared strains and superior to TIV against the unmatched strains. The arm of the study in babies and toddlers suggested that QIV was immunogenic against all four strains. Reactions and safety markers were similar in QIV and TIV groups. The researchers noted that the main limitation of the study is that immunogenicity doesn’t predict the magnitude of protection against influenza B and said effectiveness trials are needed after the vaccine is used in campaigns. They concluded that there is a clear need for a quadrivalent vaccine in kids, because they bear a bigger burden if influenza B infections and that QIV may provide better protection against the strain than current vaccines.Mar 7 J Infect Dis abstractStudy: Surgical masks may cut flu virus shedding by two thirdsFine aerosolized particles carry nine times more influenza viruses than do coarser airborne particles, and having flu patients wear surgical masks may cut viral shedding to one-third that of unmasked patients, according to a study yesterday in PLoS Pathogens. US and Hong Kong researchers collected exhaled particles from 37 volunteers who were confirmed to have influenza by polymerase chain reaction. Samples were collected with the patients wearing surgical masks and without. The investigators found that fine airborne particles of 5 micrometers or less in diameter harbored 8.8-fold more viral RNA copies than did larger airborne particles. They also found that the masks reduced viral load 2.8-fold in the fine particles and 25-fold in coarser particles. Overall, masks reduced viral shedding 3.4-fold, or about 71%. The authors conclude, “These results suggest an important role for aerosols in transmission of influenza virus and that surgical facemasks worn by infected persons are potentially an effective means of limiting the spread of influenza.”Mar 5 PLoS Pathog studyUSDA extends deadline for assessing ground-poultry safety plansIn response to an industry request, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced yesterday that poultry processors have another 45 days—until Apr 20—to reassess their safety plans for raw ground chicken and turkey products. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) also said processors have until the same date to comment on the reassessment order and related proposed actions, according to Federal Register notice. The FSIS announced on Dec 6, 2012, that processors had until Mar 6 to reassess their HACCP (hazard analysis and critical control point) plans for raw chicken and turkey products that are ground or “otherwise comminuted”—a step that was prompted by several recent Salmonella outbreaks linked to such products. In the December notice the FSIS also announced the expansion of its Salmonella testing program to all forms of raw comminuted poultry products not destined for further processing into ready-to-eat products. In January a coalition of trade groups asked the agency for more time to comment on the plans, according to the Federal Register notice. While granting the request, the FSIS said it plans to start taking samples of ground poultry for Salmonella testing on or around Apr 20.Mar 7 FSIS Federal Register noticeRelated Dec 6, 2012, CIDRAP News storylast_img read more