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Toxic shock effect on rise from strep bacteria

A bacterial infection that may be as serious as toxic shock syndrome is on the rise and is targeting children as well as adults, researchers reported Tuesday. New research points to significant changes in the pattern of severe streptococcal infections, Dr. Charles Hoge of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported at an American Society for Microbiology conference. Strep is a common microbe, most frequently thought of as the cause of strep throat. But in rare cases, it can cause extremely serious infections _ such as the pneumonia that killed Muppets creator Jim Henson in May. The exact case definition of "strep toxic shock" is yet to be determined. But based on the cluster of symptoms in an Arizona study and laboratory findings, that toxin may be the culprit, Hoge said.Study: Cocaine prompts growth of AIDS virus

ATLANTA _ Cocaine speeded the growth of the AIDS virus in laboratory tests, prompting concern that it could increase infected people's chances of developing the deadly disease, researchers reported Monday. Microbiologists at the University of Minnesota Medical School exposed cells that are the primary target for the AIDS virus to doses of cocaine. The virus, HIV, was found to grow as much as three times faster in the cocaine-laced tests than in control studies. If what happened in the test tube happens in HIV-infected cocaine users, it could increase their risk of developing AIDS, said Dr. Ronald Schut, the lead researcher. While about 150,000 AIDS cases have been reported in the United States, researchers say 1-million or more other Americans are infected and at risk of developing AIDS. Test-tube tests, however, don't always mimic what happens in the human body. The question now for researchers is whether drug use somehow modifies the immune system to enhance HIV growth in humans.

Tuberculosis making "shameful' comeback

ATLANTA _ Tuberculosis, dreaded by earlier generations as much as AIDS is feared now, is headed for its biggest increase on record in the United States. And the comeback is blamed in part on AIDS. Reported cases of TB in 1990 are up 9 percent compared to a year ago, when the disease reversed a decade of decline, the Centers for Disease Control reported. Tuberculosis, an often lethal disease, affected millions before drugs to combat it were developed about three decades ago. "It was forgotten, but not gone," Donald Kopanoff, associate director of the CDC's Division of Tuberculosis, said recently. "It ought not to be turning around and going up. That is a terrible shame." TB germs' ability to prey on people weakened by HIV, the AIDS virus, is contributing to the dramatic comeback, he said.

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